The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cool. Boy Mayor Brian Bowman gets his own development scandal.


We're so dizzy we're bumping into walls.

Who wouldn't be after a day of scandal after scandal like we saw Wednesday.

Where should we start?  Should we start with the latest land development scandal?

Oh, you're bored with land development scandals.  All developers are crooks; all politicians are corrupt; nobody ever gets charged or fired or held accountable; and it's going to cost taxpayers millions, as usual. 

Hey, were you peeking at our notes? But this one is different, kinda. Listen:

The Winnipeg Convention Centre was looking pretty dowdy. It needed a makeover. And while they were at it, they could make it bigger, because conventions these days are really, really big and if you want to attract the best ones, you have to be big enough to host them.

So they had a contest to see who could do the job at the best price and picked a company called Stuart Olson. But there was one teeny catch. Isn't there always?

Convention goers want to stay in top-of-the-line name hotels to collect loyalty points. So part of the deal called for Stuart Olson to build a hotel right by the new Convention Centre for a high-end hotel chain.

Easier said than done. While they had the land (CentreVenture, the agency charged with jumpstarting development in downtown Winnipeg, bought the Carlton Hotel and demolished it), Stuart Olson couldn't nail down an interested hotel chain. And time was running out. The expansion project will be finished this year, and  they can't wait forever to start building an adjoining hotel.

This is the part everyone agrees on.  
The next part no one agrees on.

The Convention Centre has a contract with Stuart Olson that calls for SO to build a suitable hotel. Or not. Yesterday we were told the contract was never signed.  Or maybe it was. We don't know because they can't get their story straight.

CentreVenture said Stuart Olson went to a meeting in April and threw in the towel.  We can't find anyone who wants a hotel here, they allegedly said.  The Convention Centre  says baloney, Stuart Olson  didn't stop looking for a partner until last week.  And they may even have whipped up a suitable deal, but CentreVenture wouldn't talk to Stuart Olson about it and it died.

CentreVenture says they found their own hotel developer. Everybody at City Hall is being hush hush and pretending they don't know who it is. But outside of City Hall its an open secret. Longboat. The development arm of the Chipman family, including son Mark who owns the Winnipeg Jets.

But then it gets confusing. (What? You thought that was confusing?  Nertz.)

The Convention Centre has a binding contract (or not) with Stuart Olson to build a hotel on land owned by CentreVenture. CentreVenture says it's given an option on that land to a developer which is not Stuart Olson. The Convention Centre says they may have had a deal which was scuttled by CentreVenture because CentreVenture had their own secret deal of which, of course, they didn't tell anyone. 

Oh, and the deal is with a company connected to Mark Chipman, who as of November, 2014 was still listed on the CentreVenture board of directors ... (Sure, now you're interested) ... and who very publicly endorsed Mayor Brian Bowman. Bowman is the honorary chairman (ex officio) of the CentreVenture board of directors. The twitteratti are already calling Mark Chipman Brian Bowman's Sandy Shindleman.

Bowman, the mature statesman, said yesterday the whole stab-in-the-back thing is "not cool."

Still not enough?

Well, the chairman of the board of the Convention Centre is none other than Bob Silver, the co-owner of the Winnipeg Free Press.  You would think that the owner of the bloody newspaper would make sure his own reporters got the facts right.  But you would be wrong.  It's not that they got the facts wrong, it's just that everybody has their own facts and nobody is sorting them out.

Maybe somebody from the city could step in and be that person.  Uh, nope. CentreVenture says they kept city officials in the loop the whole time.  But by city officials they mean NOT city councillors or the mayor.

CentreVenture means they talked with the real power brokers at city council -- the administration, which would undoubtedly include acting CAO Deepak Joshi.

You know Deepak Joshi. His name pops up frequently in the audits of the firehall boondoggles.  Yet somehow he was appointed in October, 2013, as acting-Chief Administrative Officer to replace Phil Sheegl, the architect of the firehall scandals. He was told to replace himself asap. He managed to avoid that task for 15 months.

But now he's on the fast track to getting fired. Bowman suspended him for 3 days, EPC extended the suspension for 30 days during which they will recommend he get the boot and council will tell him to bend over. Bowman never said why he lost confidence in Joshi. 

In fact, at the first meeting of the new council he defended Joshi when defeated mayoral candidate David Sanders warned about the mindset of the administration.

Said Sanders. "We have just seen altogether recently too much evidence of Lord Acton's dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Unfortunately, most senior administrators have come to believe that they are in charge at City Hall and they can ignore elected councillors with impunity."

Bowman delivered Sanders a pompous lecture about the laws of defamation. When the facts of the Convention Centre hotel fiasco trickled out, he learned that Sanders had been right all along. Bowman flip-flopped and turned on Joshi.

He still owes Sanders an apology, though.  That would be cool, dude.

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