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.

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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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Selinger NDP's bedrock support is eroding even as Trudeau dooms the Liberals


Justin Trudeau has delivered the kiss of death to the Manitoba Liberal Party.

With a new leader and a successful annual general meeting under their belts, the Party had surged up the polls to heights unheard of since 1995. At 23 percent of popular support in the March poll by Probe Research, the Liberals were barking at the ankles of the ruling NDP (28 percent), a far cry from their 7.5 percent showing in the last provincial election (2011).

Then Trudeau announced in May that the federal Liberals were henceforth the official pro-abortion party of Canada and anyone opposing abortion was an enemy of the state.

Poof.  Support for the Manitoba Liberals dropped seven percentage points by the June polling. (And even that was bolstered by the anomaly of 28 percent support in Southwest Winnipeg.)

The bright horizon predicted for Liberals under Leader Rana Bokhari suddenly became a pipe dream, with another trip to the sub-basement of political hell more likely.
The latest Probe poll shows the Progressive Conservatives remain the most popular party in Manitoba with the governing NDP 13 points behind.

While the Winnipeg Free Press tries to spin the poll results as a modest comeback for the NDP from their worst standing, the newspaper fails to point out that the undecided vote dropped from 20 percent to 13.  Voters' opinions have hardened.

The only movement hereon is in how many voters are chased away by Justin Trudeau and whether they'll find refuge in another party or sit on the sidelines.

The NDP cannot be heartened by the fine details of the election poll. The Progressive Conservatives are ahead in almost every category, showing that even the bedrock NDP support has begun to erode:
Male voters have totally rejected the NDP, with the Tories ahead by 24 percentage points. 
 
Female voters prefer the PC's by a nose, and 
 
* the Opposition Party leads in support from all age groups, all education levels (with the biggest lead among those with high school or less), and all income levels, including the poorest voters.

The NDP is competitive only with female voters under age 55, where the results are within the poll's margin of error in their favour.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Woman Who Made Sam Katz Quit. Hint: It's Not His Wife.


Sam Katz didn't decide not to run for another term as mayor because he wanted to spend more time with his family.  Puh-lease. Wasn't there another cliche he could use?

And he didn't decide because of some off-the-cuff comment four years ago, that nobody remembered,  to serve only two terms.

Hey, this was the guy who lied outright to get elected in 2010 by painting himself as  the defender of elderly and poor homeowners, only to stab them in the back as soon as he got re-elected by raising their property taxes and promising annual increases from here until forever.  Breaking his word was like breathing air. Effortless.

And he didn't decide not to run because he was afraid he might lose to a North End baba whose entire work life has been spent as an NDP hack. He trounced her once before and in an election over who was hated more by taxpayers, him or the NDP, he still held a slight edge over the NDP's candidate.

And he didn't walk away from a run at re-election because he was afraid of some lawyer (ptui) with the Joker's grin whose campaign is 'ignorance is a virtue. I know less than anyone. Vote for me.'

Sam Katz headed for the exit because he was afraid -- he was afraid of one, and only one, contender for his job -- Paula Havixbeck.

Sam knew that she would chew him up and spit him out in any campaign. 
She sat on Executive Policy Committee, and she could tell the public how he engineered his votes behind closed doors, how he lobbied, blustered and threatened to get his way. 

After he booted her out of EPC for showing too much independence, she stood up to him at council and wouldn't be bullied into silence.  She demanded information from Katz and his best friend, Phil Sheegl, who he had stickhandled into the job of Chief Administrative Officer, and she refused to be stonewalled by the scandal-tainted twins.

Phil Sheegl was the most powerful man at city hall, more powerful than the mayor in who he could hire and fire on his own and how much money he could spend without council approval--- until Paula Havixbeck stood up to him - and he realized she was the one councillor he couldn't intimidate.

Who can forget the day she ordered him to appear before a committee that she chaired. Like a naughty schoolboy in the principal's office, he squirmed, stonewalled, smirked and generally refused to answers her questions about his mismanagement of projects that were millions dollars over budget.  He sent the message: I am the boss, not you.

He found out the hard way that he was wrong.

But Sam Katz backed him 100 percent; he threw Havixbeck off EPC in retaliation for the way she treated his pal. When an audit, demanded by Havixbeck over Katz's objections, revealed Sheegl was behind bid-rigging to secretly award  multi-million contracts to build four new fire stations to Sam Katz's partner in the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Sheegl quit before he could be fired and, with Katz's blessing, walked away with a huge severance paycheque.

Most people don't watch telecasts of city council meetings; if they did they would see how scared Katz is of the councillor from Charleswood. 

Katz would never answer any of her questions; he would respond with some condescending lecture or a sneering putdown. Sam Katz demonstrated at every council meeting that he was either contemptuous of women in general or Paula Havixbeck, his nemesis, in particular, and the effect was always unpleasant and uncomfortable to watch. 

Once the electorate saw him repeat his performance during an election campaign, he would be sunk in an instant.

Sam Katz, doomed to tote the corpse of Phil Sheegl's scandal-filled career with him wherever he went, decided he would sooner be a lame duck mayor than a dead duck candidate.

"I've been the voice for citizens to try to restore trust and confidence at City Hall, and to bring honour back to City Hall, because right now it's not operating very honourably," said Havixbeck in a recent interview on City Circus, the Channel 9 community access weekly television show on local politics.
"2012 was a pivotal year," she told host Marty Gold, "because I saw so much mismanagement happening on the backs of taxpayers, and being a member of EPC... I could see that it was the lazy route to charge citizens more for this kind of mismanagement."

She was running for mayor, she said, because her experience on city council led her to conclude "I have to take a stand, and this is my stand."

As it turned out, it was also Sam Katz's Last Stand.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Too much of her own money, not enough of yours. Judy runs for Mayor.




When it comes to electing a mayor, nothing says a city is dynamic, bold, and thriving like a stara baba collecting an old-age pension.

This week Judy Wasylycia-Leis, 63 in August,  announced her second run at the mayor's job. She still has zero experience at City Hall, still marches to the orders of the NDP, collects two retirement pensions and would be getting a third, her old age security cheque, if Mayor. Do you feel the excitement, yet?

Despite getting trounced by Sam Katz in the mayoral election four years ago, JWL thinks her campaign the second time around needs only minor tinkering.  Most specifically, she doesn't have to pretend to be apologetic for promising higher taxes.

Katz handily defeated JWL by at least paying lip service to protecting seniors and low-income homeowners from her promised tax hikes. Of course, it turns out he was either lying or ..., well, lying, because the first thing he did after re-election was start raising property taxes.

JWL can now proudly make tax hikes front and centre to her campaign for Mayor because most of the other candidates for the job also call for higher taxes for -- wait for it -- infrastructure.  There. The magic word.  Say it and you can spend endlessly, without shame or regret.

And JWL is proof of that. On the very first day of her campaign she declared herself in favour of spending $4 billion on a citywide bus rapid transit system and against a referendum to ask the taxpaying public if BRT was their priority too.
On her second day she spelled out her formula for constant tax increases---inflation plus growth.  The Winnipeg Free Press worked out that this would have meant a tax increase of 3.5 percent in 2014 instead of Sam Katz's 2.95 percent.

Vote Judy for higher taxes and rampant spending.  And that's a promise.

Oh, and here's the joke. You won't find JWL taking a bus.  Like all the politicians who want to spend your money on a gold-plated public transit system, she's much too busy to take the bus. She brags she rides her bike when she's not driving.

On the day she announced her run for Mayor,  JWL told CJOB her 25 year-old son was biking home to Winnipeg from the University of Waterloo.  She wanted him to  eventually move here after graduation to work, and she said, she didn't want to leave him a second-class city without a modern transit system.  So ... what's going to keep an educated young man in his mid-20's in Winnipeg?  The ability to take a bus around town?

Don't laugh until you see his field of study:

(from the blog Jessica's Transit Talks http://winnipegtransittalks.com/)
"... he’s at the University of Waterloo doing his masters in environmental studies. His whole research area is in community resilience and his thesis is going to be on linking culture and art, specifically linking festivals as a vehicle for helping build a transformative society that is sustainable in the face of peak oil and environmental deprivation and economic collapse.”

Okay, laugh now.

During the last election, we pointed out how completely out of touch with the voters 'Just Judy' was.  Her whole life had been spent as a soldier in the NDP army, towing the party line, voting the party line, living the party life.

Having never worked a day in her life in a real job, she had no clue what life was like for an ordinary working family.

It was only during this campaign when we realized how far off the mark we were.  Judy Wasylycia-Leis is even more out of touch with the average taxpayer than we ever imagined.

She's a white-wine socialist. A one-percenter slumming as a 'woman of the people.'  She pledged on radio to give her MP's pension to charity if elected mayor.  That means she's willing to give away at the least $68,000 a year without a thought.  And, she added proudly, she'll give away her MLA's pension from the Manitoba Legislature, as well.  In 2010 she actually said she didn't know how much her MLA pension was, that's how insignificant it was to her bottom line.
 
In a political riding that's one of the poorest in the country, Judy Wasylycia-Leis is ready to give away -- what do you say?-- at least $80,000 in total pension income because she will be so flush that she won't need the money. 

Yep, she really relates to her former constituents, the very people she intends to soak with higher property taxes if she gets the chance so that she can spend their money on her boutique projects - - white elephant museums, a BRT system they'll never use, interpretive centres nobody wanted, a spectacular exhibit for polar bears that they can't afford to attend or bring their children.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis has her priorities, only they're not the public's.
Listen to the so-called pundits and they'll tell you JWL is the front-runner in a field of right-wing candidates and her. 

They're wrong.

This election is not about political wings. It's about voting for unending tax increases or not. 

Since these pundits are all in well-paying jobs where annual tax increases are just a mosquito bite, they're in favour of spending on boutique projects. (Winnipeg Free Press columnists and editorialists earn $70,000 and up and have guaranteed jobs for life.) They'll be promoting the tax hikers over the tax resisters and, of course, the biggest spender-to-be will get the most favourable coverage.

Current Mayor Sam Katz is not going to run again.  You can call him many things, but stupid is not one of them.  To run for Mayor again, Katz would have to run against himself. In the 2010 election he either lied about not raising taxes or flip-flopped so quickly that there's no difference. In either case, he's proven he can't be trusted to keep his word.

He would be running with the stink of Phil Sheegl choking everyone around him. Sam Katz brought Sheegl into civic government, endorsed him, publicly insulted anyone who challenged Sheegl's competence as the city's Chief Administrative Officer, covered up as long as he could for the scandals sweeping Winnipeg that all lead right Sheegl's office. Katz would be carrying that dead albatross around his neck everywhere he went.

Katz would be running on a track record of his own incompetence
.  Remember his own declarations that the new football stadium wouldn't cost taxpayers a cent more because of a "guaranteed maxium price"?  Or his claim that he knew all along that the  "guaranteed maximum price" for the new police station was not guaranteed, nor a maximum. 

And, of course, there's that niggling question of how Sam Katz, the Mayor, managed to buy a million dollar house in Phoenix for $10 from a relative of an official of Shindo, the company that got the contract for four new firehalls from Phil Sheegl after a rigged bidding process that eliminated every other potential contender. When the sale was revealed, Katz said he paid cash for the house above the $10 on the books, but he offered no proof, which, of course is the purpose of an alleged cash transaction.

So there won't be a rematch between Sam and 'JustJudy'.  Not that it matters.

Because she's not really running for mayor.  Remember, she's a party hack and has always been a party hack.  She's running as a trial horse for the provincial NDP, which wants to see prior to the next provincial election just how much the NDP brand repels voters. They want to see if they can buy their way back into office, if taxpayers will forgive the increase in PST if the government can utter the magic word -- infrastructure -- and spend, spend, spend to victory.

In the Brave New World of the NDP, even a stara baba has her role to play.

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