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 since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Name:
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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Byelection post-mortem. Press bias and NDP panic.


It must have been as if Christmas came early.


The liberal press was nearly orgasmic at the thought of witnessing their political messiah Justin Trudeau demonstrate his magnificence by casting out the conservative demons in Parliamentary byelections.

Three times he had gone into the Temple of the Beast (well, Manitoba), preaching about scandal in Ottawa, and promising to cleanse the rot in a puff of (pot) smoke.

Giddy with anticipation, they came  to anoint their saviour---he who would restore Liberals to their rightful place as the natural governing party once he demonstrated his miraculous powers to the voting public.

They gathered to witness the rebirth of the Party--- these self-proclaimed shepherds of the ignorant masses, angels in their own minds, and a lot of asses.

After all, hadn't the oracles predicted an easy and crushing victory?  'Liberals 29 points ahead in Brandon-Souris' declared the Forum Research sages.

And it didn't hurt that some of the liberal press gave the electorate a nudge in the right direction, did it?

CBC carried a story in which one Brandon voter condemned Prime Minister Stephen Harper for circulating a letter asking for support for the Conservative candidate in the byelection.

They just forgot to mention that the person they interviewed was the web master for the Green Party.

And the Winnipeg Free Press carried a story casting doubt on the accuracy of the Forum Research poll, right under the headline "Liberal candidate holds 29-point lead in Brandon-Souris byelection: poll".
Voter suppression tactic, anyone?  Oh, only Conservatives can be accused of that? We stand corrected.

Then came the night of the casting out of devils ( "Brandon-Souris turning red today?" asked the Winnipeg Free Press) and...uh oh.

Trudeau, uh, FAILED.

Wha' happened?  Trudeau had been all but guaranteed to win at least three--if not, by some miracle, all four---of the seats at stake, Liberal-held seats in Ontario and Quebec and two Conservative-held seats in Manitoba.  Brandon-Souris was his, surely. Everyone said so.

The liberal press was aghast.  Their very own baby Jesus had come up empty-handed.

They quickly changed the narrative.

Trudeau, you see, didn't lose.  He won.  Oh, sure he lost the Manitoba seats, but the Liberal vote was up, so therefore he won. And Harper? He lost.
Got that? The party leader whose candidates won, lost. And the party leader whose candidates lost, won?  Meet liberal logic.

The counter-offensive started almost immediately.

Maclean's magazine's political pundit Paul Wells dashed off these pearls of wisdom in his blog, obviously even before the final results were in:

"Brandon-Souris? A 21-point decline in Conservative vote and a 38-point gain for the Liberals, who ran an anonymous parachute candidate of very uncertain quality against a Conservative campaign personally spearheaded by Jenni Byrne, the Conservatives’ 2011 national campaign manager."
".... In Brandon-Souris a 39-point Conservative advance on May 2, 2011 shrank to nearly zero last night. Harper cannot survive many more such triumphs."

Uh, Paul, the Conservatives won Brandon-Souris. How is winning going to hurt Harper?

But, but, but...what about that "Liberal surge"?

Note that the liberal press trumpets the percentages and ignores the actual vote totals.

In Brandon-Souris, Conservative Larry Maguire got 12,205 votes.

That translates into 44 percent of the total vote.

In 2011, winner Merv Tweed, collected 63.7 percent of the vote. The liberal press is highlighting the fact that the  percentage of the popular vote for the Conservative Party dropped 19.6 percentage points (Wells probably didn't wait for all the polls to be in before writing).

Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale received 11,814 votes, 42.6 percent of the total vote, an increase of 37 points over the Liberal's showing in 2011.

The NDP candidate got a measley 2037 votes, 7.3 percent of the total, and a drop of 17.8 points from the NDP's showing in 2011.

But the real story is in the numbers that the press is not reporting.
 
Merv Tweed got 22,386 votes. The NDP candidate in 2011 got 8845 and the Liberal 1882, behind even the Green Party candidate who collected 2012 votes.
What this means is that in the next general federal election, the Conservative candidate  can potentially tap into more than 10,000 voters who cast a ballot for the Conservatives in 2011.

The Liberals, on the other hand, are maxed out. Their 2013 vote total is already more than the combined Opposition votes in 2011. Everybody who wants to defeat the Conservatives has already voted.

Have you see that analysis anywhere else?

Understand, Wells, like most of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, is one of those pundits on Parliament Hill who profess to  know more about politics than do you, the little people. That's why he wrote this learned observation:

"The NDP gained vote share in Toronto Centre and lost elsewhere, especially in Provencher and Brandon-Souris, where the memory of that noted prairie populist Jack Layton fades. "

Sadly, if Paul Wells had a clue about Manitoba, he would have known that "prairie populist Jack Layton" had zero impact on the 2011 election in Manitoba.

The NDP lost one seat (Elmwood) and failed to recapture the NDP stronghold of Winnipeg-North which was lost to the Liberals in a byelection after incumbent Judy Wasylecia-Leis retired.

The press herd, including the Winnipeg contingent, has settled on the narrative of the byelections -- Justin Trudeau won though he lost and Stephen Harper lost though he won.

And by doing so they've missed the biggest political story in the province---the stark panic in the NDP government.

Support for the NDP in Manitoba in the federal byelections was in single digits (7 percent Brandon-Souris, 8 percent Provencher). It's a rule-of-thumb in Manitoba that voters who go NDP provincially vote Liberal federally in all but the bedrock ridings. But single digits? That's complete collapse.

You can bet the NDP's Drew Caldwell in Brandon East is in full panic. Stan Struthers in Dauphin, Peter Bjornson in Gimli, Greg Dewar in Selkirk, Thomas Nevakshonoff in the Interlake are sweating over whether the meltdown of the NDP vote in rural Manitoba will extend to their ridings.

Even Winnipeg ridings are not safe given the evaporation of NDP support shown by the byelections. The most recent election polls have shown the NDP behind the Conservatives in popularity, even in Winnipeg. But a single-digit showing in federal byelections could mean disaster for the New Democrats if its a true reflection of public opinion towards a government that openly breaks the law to raise taxes, hosts an admittedly racist cabinet minister, and is racing towards bankrupting the province by its rampant and unrestricted spending.

Not that any of the local political reporters thinks that's worthy of following up.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Fundraisers cry Mayday for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights


Fundraising for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has collapsed.

The museum's fundraising arm, The Friends of the CMHR, has managed to gather barely two million dollars in pledges this year so far.

Over the past 14 months, only 200 private donations have been received.

Given that donations are usually spread out over 5-10 years, that means they could have raised as little as $400,000 cash in 2013.  In that case the CMHR has officially slid into the abyss, with costs, including millions in unpaid back taxes, escalating faster than they can raise money to pay for them.
The only thing that's propped up this White Elephant appears to be a wink-wink nudge-nudge $10 million slipped to the CMHR under the table by the federal government.

In 2011, after running out of money and while waiting for a government bailout, the CMHR stopped hiring and paying for the design of exhibits. In that way they underspent their $21 million annual operating funds by $10 million.

They, ahem, "re-profiled" this ten million the following year into capital funding to keep paying the cheques to construction workers. But that means that operating funds became capital funding, and the federal government's share of the cost of the museum went up surrepticiously from $100 million to $110 million, although government MP's will never acknowledge it.

And that's not counting the $35 million "advance" they gave the CMHR last year to save the project from bankruptcy.  You can bet the farm that will never be recouped either, although the CMHR says it's obligated to start making payments five years from now, just about the time everybody has forgotten they owe any.

That whole $35 million has been spent by now, and the CMHR is nowhere near ready to open in 10 months as they claim they will.  They were supposed to get a private loan for $35 million, co-signed by the Manitoba NDP government, to guarantee they open on time, but there hasn't been a hint of such a loan.

But get these gems culled from the museum's 2012-2013 annual report, which was quietly released  a week-and-a-half ago.

"As the Museum transitions from planning
to operations, evaluation of projected
post-inauguration operating needs is
ongoing. Estimates and timing of the
Corporation’s ongoing requirements will be
affirmed through 2013-2014 as inaugural
exhibits, programs, information technology
infrastructure, operating systems and
revenue-generating initiatives are finalized
and implemented."

"In 2013-2014, the Museum will continue to refine
its budgets for the five-year period following
inauguration. Once the Museum is open and fully
operational the Corporation will be in a position to
more accurately assess ongoing operating needs."

"The Museum will continue to plan and
account for factors including maintenance,
capital repairs, inflation, and Payments in
Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments."

Duh.

They're giving you fair warning that after they get through evaluating their post-inauguration operating needs, refining their budgets and planning for factors like maintenance, inflation and taxes, they're going to ask for more money.  They already get $21.7 million a year in operating costs.

Taxes alone will add, by their calculations, $3.4 million a year. (They already owe $4.4 million, which would put next year's bill at almost $8 million.)

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From Perp to Plaintiff: As the worm turns.



Every day is a remembrance day of sorts for former Winnipegger David Wolinsky.

Wolinsky remembers making the perp walk to an airplane at Vancouver International Airport four years ago, hands cuffed, legs shackled and escorted through the airport's public area by two City of Winnipeg policemen.

He remembers being charged with conspiracy to defraud the Astra Credit Union (before it was swallowed up by Assiniboine Credit Union).  He remembers seeing his name dragged through the mud. And he remembers what the judge said when he dropped all the charges in April.

It's those memories that fuel the lawsuit Wolinsky has launched against what appears to be everyone associated with Astra-cum-Assiniboine Credit Union short of the cleaning lady and the night security guard.

Joining Wolinsky in the suit are three co-plaintiffs--- a financial consultant to Wolinsky's holding company, the Protos Group; the chief financial officer of Maple Leaf Distillers, one of the companies controlled by Protos; and Astra's chief credit officer.
Together they want more than damages caused by the charges laid against them in 2009, they want punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages.

Former lawyer Wolinsky, the chairman of Protos Group, was once one of Winnipeg's most prominent movers and shakers. His company controlled Salisbury House restaurants, among other businesses, and among his investors was friend and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, back when being the Mayor's friend was a good thing and not suspicious  or shameful.

The fortunes of Protos began to implode around 2004.
  
The company was Astra's largest commercial client and Protos owed Astra millions in loans.  Wolinsky saw an opportunity to sell off some of Protos' assets, primarily Maple Leaf Distillers, to raise much needed operating cash.

When a potential buyer came sniffing around, things looked good. But it was taking forever to close the deal. In the meantime, Wolinsky needed to put some lipstick on the porker which was bleeding money, and value. 

Astra management alleged he did that, with the collusion of one of its own managers, by transferring funds daily between the accounts of Protos companies to cover overdrafts in each account and to create the illusion of a healthy company.  The name for that in police circles is cheque kiting, and those allegations formed the basis of the charges against Wolinsky et al.
As it happened, the buyer backed out, Maple Leaf Distillers went belly up, as did Protos. And David Wolinsky found himself in a Winnipeg police interview room far from his home in White Rock, B.C.

Then, last April, vindication!

Provincial Court Judge Marvin Garfinkle tossed out all charges following a preliminary hearing, but not before some serious tut-tutting at the shenanigans pulled by Astra.

It turned out that Astra was more than willing to go along with the game of musical cheques as long as it was making money, and anticipating the sale of Maple Leaf Distillers which would recoup the almost $4 million loaned to the company.

The Wolinsky lawsuit describes it this way:

"Each time a Protos Group account went into overdraft, Astra charged that account an overdraft fee, consisting of a per overdraft cheque fee of $5.00. This fee was charged in addition to Astra's regular line of credit  interest rate as well as the excess overdraft interest rate charged by Astra on these accounts which ranged from 24-28 percent."

"The per cheque overdraft fee amounted to many thousands of dollars (at $5 per, how many cheques did they write?...ed) and the excess overdraft interest rate amounted to many hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Garfinkel found that Astra was just extending more credit to Protos through the cheque rotation and by that was knowingly taking on more risk.  He concluded:

"Astra was deprived, it lost a lot of money; but that loss occurred because of business decisions to keep Maple Leaf afloat so a potential sale could go through.  Astra, in my assessment of the facts and the documents, acted with full knowledge of the situation.  There was clear reporting of the status of the Protos companies.  The fact that those reports even went to Credit Union Central and red flags were raised, but no one shot it down.  The decision was made to keep Maple Leaf afloat.  It is easy to assess that decision with hindsight, but at the time the anticipation was that there was no problem to the sale going through.  Any falsehood that arose came about, if there was any falsehood, came about with full knowledge of the staff and executive and board of Astra.  When questions were asked, the answer was, no recourse was lost.  This was true.  There was never recourse.  It was all to the same financial institution.  The cheques were all from accounts held by Astra.  This was a form of a loan and a fee was assessed, and up until the end, it was paid.  There was no fraud."
 

Case dismissed.

But the public humiliation of being led through an airport in chains is long and lingering. Now it's David Wolinsky's turn at bat. And he's swinging for the fence.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The acquital of Harry Bakema is an indictment of journalism in Winnipeg


This is what passes for professional journalism in Winnipeg?

Of eveything written about the political persecution of former East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema, the Saturday, Nov. 2, column by Winnipeg Free Press scribe Dan Lett stands as the most contemptible.

Lett professes to be a "professional" journalist. He even gives lectures to budding journalists on how he does it. God help the profession. He hurls insults at bloggers who dare tell him how to do his job and where he fails miserably, because, of course, HE is the professional.

Lett, you'll remember, was at the head of the media lynch mob in 2008 that howled for the head of every police officer and lawyer connected with the prosecution of Const. Derek Harvey-Zenk, who caused the death of Crystal Taman when he rear-ended her car which was stopped at a red light. 

The occasion was a government-sponsored show trial, disguised as a public inquiry, into the fatal accident. The rabid pack of  reporters and commentators abandoned any pretense of legitimate reporting, choosing instead  to mock and attack anyone who dared to say anything that contradicted their agreed-upon version of the facts---that there had been a massive cover-up by police to hide the fact that Harvey-Zenk was drunk when the accident happened.

Only The Black Rod stood up for truth.  We faced down the mob. One against all. It still stands as our finest hour.  And we do it again today.

A special prosecutor, appointed by the province, examined the case against Harvey-Zenk, the precedents in law, the decisions by the Manitoba Court of Appeal, and he decided to accept a plea bargain. Zenk pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and other charges that referenced impairment as a result of drinking were dropped.  He was instantly villified for being in on the cover-up.

The province ordered a public inquiry, which professed to show that as many as 40 others were involved in the cover-up, mainly police officers from Winnipeg.  Lett uses this as the centrepoint of his lament over the aquital of Harry Bakema on all charges, including perjury and obstruction of justice.

Lett actually declares that a show trial has more validity than a free court of law!  Because the Taman "public inquiry" was just that---a Stalineque show trial. 

The verdict was decided in advance; the witnesses were coached; no cross examination was allowed;  the odd time when a witness failed to say what was expected, the Inquiry council either called a rebuttal witness against his own witness or held a, ahem, private interview with the witness to, ahem, refresh her memory before testifying properly a second time.

But when the same case was heard in a real court,  when witnesses knew they could be charged with perjury, when a real judge heard those same witnesses cross-examined under the rules of law by real lawyers....well, the result was radically different.

Roger Salhany, the alleged judge who conducted the public inquiry, is Lett's hero. But Salhany was nothing more than a hand-picked prop reading a script, nothing more than Ontario Superior Justice Harriet Sachs was going to be at a "live theatre performance" featuring a mock trial of global warming proponent David Suzuki.  When her starring role was exposed by Ezra Levant on Sun News, she got cold feet (joke intended) and surrendered her role to her understudy.

In fact, the Manitoba Court of Appeal repudiated Salhany's version of the law in a subsequent ruling:

None of this affected Lett's biased and unprincipled "journalism."

"The husband of Crystal Taman... has been called upon repeatedly to make sense out of the madness that surrounds his wife's death and the ensuing police investigation."  Right, there's an unbiased source.  Oh, and he's going to comment on the "madness" of the police investigation into this wife's death.  Don't tip your hand, Dan.

"What's clear to the general public is foggy to the people who make the decisions," said the husband.  That's right. Why bother with a trial. Let's just go straight to the hanging.

Lett described Bakema as "a man whose actions were laid bare in a 2008 judicial inquiry. It is that inquiry that informed the public about the steps Bakema took to shield Harvey-Zenk from prosecution."

There you have it. The "professional" journalist declares the cover-up as fact, evidence be damned.

"Inquiry commissioner Roger Salhany demonstrated no ambivalence about Bakema's actions..." 

Because it was a show trial, Dan.  Truth wasn't part of the script.

" Salhany could not assign criminal responsibility for any of the transgressions he uncovered."

Because it wasn't real.  The "inquiry" was a performance.  The only test of the evidence is when it was heard in a real court, before a real judge and under real rules of trial.  It was - and no "criminal responsibility" was determined.  Doesn't that make you wonder about Salhany?

The refusal to report that fact is the real crime. 
 "...there are aspects of the decision that certainly seem to be generous to the accused."

That such a sentence could appear in the daily newspaper is astonishing. 

It's called the presumption of innocence, Dan.  It's the core value of the Canadian justice system.  The Crown has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  Any doubt must be given to the accused. It's not "being generous" to accord someone his human right to a fair trial.

"Bakema repeatedly demonstrated his knowledge of how to manage a crime scene like that with each decision he made to stop others from documenting Harvey-Zenk's intoxication." That's a blatant lie. If the judge had determined Bakema stopped others from documenting the intoxication of someone who caused a fatal car accident he would have been convicted.

But the judge found Bakema NOT GUILTY because the allegation was NOT proved. Repeating the allegation does not make it true. It makes you GUILTY of wilfully reporting a falsehood.

"... we have to deduce Moar did not find Bakema acted wilfully to obstruct the investigation." 

Duh.  You don't have to deduce anything Dan. 

The judge found Bakema NOT GUILTY.  That's saying it clearly and succinctly.  Bakema was NOT GUILTY of obstructing justice. 
 
And yet this "professional" journalist won't admit the obvious. 

"The public will not understand the vagaries that allowed Bakema to escape justice on these charges....And that even the most obvious evidence of wilful illegality can always, given the right accused, be explained away as unintentional errors."

The fact that a "professional" journalist can get away with blatant propagandizing like this is evidence of how far the profession has fallen. 

The real question is how and why reporters have failed to follow the real stories that flow from the Bakema aquital.
 
* The RCMP investigated allegations of obstruction of justice against Bakema  BEFORE the public inquiry and determined there was no credible evidence to support a prosecution. Who authorized a second investigation and subsequent prosecution which ended in exactly the verdict the RCMP predicted?
* the NDP government abused the justice system to force Bakema and others to testify at the inquiry, then used this testimony against him at a trial.  This abuse of government power should be investigated and the people responsible, right up to the Justice Minister, prosecuted
* Following public inquiries, the NDP has given millions of dollars to men who were convicted by juries of murder.  Will the government pay Harry Bakema for at least five years of persecution, the cost and stress of a phony public inquiry and an unwarranted criminal trial?
 
 *********

The judge who sentenced Zenk made a statement in the courtroom regarding justice. The words he spoke have never been more appropriate and we give the final say to Judge Ray Wyant:

"They want their pound of flesh. They want to hear the clanking of the cell door.
 
But let me make it absolutely clear, Mr. Zenk, those factors are not something this court or any court can entertain in deciding a fit and appropriate sentence. To do so would corrupt the very foundations of our justice system and plunge our system into chaos. So it does not matter what we think happened, what we must do is only sentence or decide cases on the evidence before us.
 
If we were to substitute our opinions or the opinions of others for proof and evidence, we would surely undermine fundamentally our system of justice. For to replace our feelings or opinions for facts would mean that any citizen could be the subject of arbitrary justice, of decisions based, not on evidence and proof, but on innuendo and personal biases.
 
Sentence delivered
October 29, 2007

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Swedish expert ignores disaster in the making to give Manitoba Hydro a thumbs up


That chill down our collective spines had nothing to do with the coming winter.

We were reading the 160-page, Manitoba Hydro-commissioned Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, by a group you've never heard of, fronted by a Swedish "hydro-power expert", discussing Hydro's planned multi-billion-dollar Keeyask generating station.  It's really scary.

We first heard of this report from a story in the Winnipeg Free Press:

Expert applauds dam project
Team spent months assessing Keeyask
By: Bruce Owen
 
Last Modified: 10/26/2013 10:14 AM | Updates

A Swedish hydro-power expert has given a thumbs-up to Manitoba Hydro's next big dam in northern Manitoba.

Bernt Rydgren's report is far from the final say on the estimated $6.2-billion Keeyask generating station project, but Hydro maintains it goes a long way toward demonstrating the Crown utility has set a new globally recognized standard in how large hydroelectric projects are developed and built.

Undaunted by the length and subject matter, we dove right in, only to discover that reporter Owen had somehow overlooked the most important finding of the Swedish hydro-power expert, the part that read (under the heading Economic Viability):

"Analysis of significant gaps against proven best practice
 
There is not enough evidence at this stage to argue that benefits of the project outweigh costs under a wide range of circumstances."

And...
"This assessment was undertaken before the economic analyses of the Keeyask project have been finalised...There is one significant gap against proven best practice, in that positive outcomes of the economic viability analysis cannot at this stage be assured under a wide range of circumstances..."

It started to feel cold in the room.
And the deeper we read, the lower the temperature dropped.

The report was chock full of information that Manitoba Hydro would prefer you didn't know.
Starting with the fact that although Manitoba Hydro intends to spend an estimated $5.6 billion to build the Keeyask power station, IT WON'T OWN IT.
Keeyask will be OWNED by an entirely different company, a private company, Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP), which will be a subsidiary of Hydro. The utility will own at least 75 percent of the equity in the private company and a group of four northern Indian reserves will own up to 25 percent.

Hydro will BUY power from the private company.  Yes, that's right.  Manitoba Hydro will pay all the costs to BUILD the Keeyask power station, then turn it over to this other company and BUY power from them.

Hint: when you buy something from someone else, the price you pay includes a profit for the other party.  Nobody is in business to lose money. So, we will build the dam to produce power, then pay another company to buy from it, the power we have paid to produce.

So the other company can make a profit from the power we paid to create in the first place.

New Democonomics at work.

Who will be "our" partners?  Fox Lake Cree Nation, population 1010; Tataskweyak Cree Nation (Split Lake), population 3000; War Lake First Nation, population 235; and York Factory First Nation, population 1060.  Of the 5300 members, only half live on reserve.

But they're about to co-own an asset worth amost six billion dollars.Their share alone is equity worth $1.4 billion.

How much will they contribute towards the project?  Nothing.

The province of Manitoba will borrow money which it will then lend to Manitoba Hydro, which will, in turn, lend to the Cree quartet, which will then put it into the private partnership.

The Indian reserves then get a number of options. "...the individual KCN can choose between two different investment option, the so called “preferred” (all loans from MH are forgiven) or the “common” (loans will be repaid from profits). The “common” approach has potential upsides while the “preferred is a more secure approach. With either option, the guaranteed minimum return on investment will be equal to MH’s cost of long-term borrowing less 1.5%, which is currently projected to be approximately 4.8%."

Oh, and they can "share" profits before their loans are paid off.

Not bad, eh. No money down (or at least none of their own), 4.8 percent return on "investment", and no need to repay Hydro for loaning the money to buy in.

Oh, and it gets better:

"Financial returns for the KCN include guaranteed annual payments under the Adverse Effects Agreements, and if they chose to invest in the project, probably some guaranteed minimum revenues and protections for the principal invested (resulting in a higher internal rate of return for the KCN than for MH). "
One thing eventually becomes very clear. This is more than a hydroelectric development.

This is a giant welfare entitlement---being paid for by a public utility to avoid scrutiny by the Legislature and to escape political accountability.

If you read deep enough into the "Swedish expert's report you'll find this admission:

"...one rationale for the project is as a vehicle for regional socio-economic development and a way to address legacy issues from past hydro developments with high social costs and few social benefits..."

But the impact of this deception will be disastrous. 

Hydro rates will be raised 3.8 percent a year for at least 18 years.  And that's not counting the additional 2.5 percent they'll be asking when the next drought hits, which is predicted to be between now and 2018, i.e. sometime in the next five years.

The Keeyask generating station is just part of Hydro's plans for $34 billion in spending to the coming years.  Swedish hydro expert Bernt Rydgren casually describes the impact of this scheme like this:

"MH will undertake several major capital projects in parallel, including Bipole III (CAD 3.3 billion) and Conawapa hydropower generating station (CAD 7.8 billion). Borrowing for these projects will push the equity/debt ratio below the target ratio of 25/75. It will drop to 12/88 by 2021 before recovering to 25/75 by 2030. The interest coverage ratio will remain below the target of 1.2 until 2024."

The Black Rod first raised the alarm over the interest coverage ratio one year ago,
staring with an explanation of what it is and why Manitobans should be scared stiff.

The interest coverage ratio is a measure of whether a company can cover its interest costs.  Here's how investopedia.com explains it:

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/interestcoverageratio.asp
Investopedia explains 'Interest Coverage Ratio'
"The lower the ratio, the more the company is burdened by debt expense. When a company's interest coverage ratio is 1.5 or lower, its ability to meet interest expenses may be questionable. An interest coverage ratio below 1 indicates the company is not generating sufficient revenues to satisfy interest expenses.
"

The Hydro report touted by the Winnipeg Free Press says Hydro's ratio will be BELOW 1.2 for the next ten years, at least.  That's well below the minimum cited by Investopedia.  But that's not even the worst of it.  Hydro's own forecasts say they expect the interest coverage ratio to drop below one percent within that time ! 
 
We found another website that discussed what that meant.
 
http://beginnersinvest.about.com/od/incomestatementanalysis/a/interest-coverage-ratio.htm
Investing for Beginners
General Guidelines for the Interest Coverage Ratio
As a general rule of thumb, investors should not own a stock that has an interest coverage ratio under 1.5.
An interest coverage ratio below 1.0 indicates the business is having difficulties generating the cash necessary to pay its interest obligations.

Let's spell it out.  Manitoba Hydro is flirting with losing its credit rating!  And with it will go the credit rating of the province of Manitoba, since the government backstops Hydro's debt. And Hydro intends to more than double Manitoba's total debt.

With no public debate, no mandate from Manitobans, the government is:

* privatizing Hydro resources by giving ownership of new dams to private companies
* building a massive, and secret, welfare entitlement program that will drain tens of millions of dollars from public coffers
* committing Manitobans to almost two decades of steadily rising rates to cover the welfare program
* guaranteeing payments to private "partners" of hydro projects even when there are no profits
* racing to the precipice where Hydro and Manitoba lose their credit ratings

Brrrr.

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