Monday, August 19, 2019

Manitoba Infrastructure Contract Corruption "Like a Mini-Quebec"/ Bonus Video - Liberal Platform Shifts To Green Turf

A first-time political hopeful says she was shocked at the number of families identifying their most urgent election issue at the doorsteps this weekend in the new riding of Red River North. It wasn't carbon taxes, not health care, not immigration. 

She found dozens of households frantic about struggling to pay their mortgages because of delayed payments on government infrastructure contracts, the end result of a toxic culture embedded within the government bureaucracy.

"Conservative voters are angry and frustrated" Jocelyn Burzuik told me Sunday night. "The areas I was in (East Selkirk and East St. Paul) are predominently small businesses and contractors - and they are not working." 

Contracts are now increasingly being awarded to general contractors from other provinces making lowball bids, while grassroots firms that employ Manitobans are being sidelined.

A whistleblower and former engineering student, Burzuik has years of experience in construction and building and has owned Sundance Construction and Safety Consulting since 2013. She has lifelong roots in the region as a Red River Metis and leapt into politics after the Province failed to pay up on a contract for work done in Nelson House and Cross Lake on the water intake systems, owing her $2.3 Million. 

Now running as a candidate for the Manitoba First Party, she says the core of the problem is the Pallister government turns a blind eye to the 'don't give a damn' attitude of the government's staff engineers. They are supposed to oversee huge infrastructure contracts handed to their allies from corporate engineering firms hired as supervising consultants. 

According to Burzuik, those consulting deals have gradually removed performance liability for the bureaucrats' favored firms, and as a result there is no accountability. 

"It's a dirty business and the Tories are oblivious to it as were the NDP before - the policies and people in the department didn't change."
"The procurement process for construction in Canada is simply rife with corruption.  
The relationships between engineering, government, and legal are incestuous and this brings no value to how our dollars are spent. We see it provincially, federally.
And there is a way to fix it."
Engineers on staff with the Province are supposed to monitor third party consultants that manage road construction, sewer and water, and other projects. Instead, she says, "they fail to execute the contract conditions that protect general contractors, and punish whistleblowers who report uncover poor planning, shoddy work, unsuitable materials, and complain about not getting paid on time - or at all." 
Burzuik cited one company that has still not been paid for work completed for the East Side Road Authority since 2016. 
While door-knocking in the riding, she heard the concerns of government employees that work in construction, as well as general contractors and small business contractors like single trades operators. "The minute I mention I'm a builder and a business owner, the welcome I got was phenomenal. In all areas I canvassed, the conversation was consistent."

The feedback Burzuik got reflected that the sector is being throttled by unpaid progress installments and other bad-faith plays. She says payouts from the Pallister government are being stalled far past the 30 day receivable agreement with general contractors, causing damaging ripple effects throughout the Manitoba economy. 

"People told me they wait for up to 6 months to get a cheque from the department, meaning sub trades and suppliers are suffering without any care shown by elected officials or their department staff. This squeeze on the cashflow of hard-working trades is killing businesses, such as Hugh Munro. That's a family business for 50 years, a Metis business, hundreds of pieces of machinery liquidated." 

Burzuik says Manitoba is part of a nation-wide problem, best understood through the SNC Lavelin scandal that has engulfed the Prime Minister. "That's the model across the country. It's choking the life out of Manitoba construction companies, subtrades and suppliers." 
"Not just SNC - it's time to break up the Corporate Engineering lobby. It's the single biggest drain on tax dollars and props up corruption in construction in Canada. It's not taking millions - it's billions.  
As a consequence of the toxic culture around government contracts, and the fact they can be breached and broken without any consequence, "The best engineers in the province no longer work with the province because they can't wrap their minds around doing work that is not in the public interest - and not being paid for it." 

Burzuik described a cause-and-effect that voters can relate to: 
"Do you have any idea how much money is being wasted in government right now? We don't need more taxation - we need existing dollars to be spent wisely. On the ground, over a few projects- I saw hundreds of millions spent for nothing. Change that - you got your dollars for programs."

"It's like we're a mini-Quebec, that's what it feels like." 

More details to come...

Last week I was asked to give an overview of the Manitoba provincial election for The Gunn Show on Rebel Media. 

Here's a clip where I describe the Liberal Party campaign launch announcement: 

Sheila Gunn Reid has me on her program every month, generally to discuss the work we do at, covering Jewish and pro- Israel issues like exposing the links between marxist radicals and antisemites/anti-Zionists of all stripes. 

I am quite glad that my role with Sheila has expanded to providing political analysis about Manitoba and Winnipeg politics and social issues (like harm reduction policies that backfire) for her viewers and expect to be on again before the September 10th vote.

I am reporting on angles and issues from a citizen journalist perspective. This is unique in local media. 

My series about flawed used needle data - where it even is being aggregated - and the fact health mandarins' "harm reduction" policy is based on a study from of all places Baltimore - the study is 23 years old now by the way - has started a discussion not only about dirty needle pick-ups in Winnipeg, but on new ways to deliver detox services to meth addicts. It's making a difference.

My next story on those issues will be a report from an election town hall hosted by St. Boniface Street Links this Wednesday at 271 Avenue de la Cathedrale from 7-9 pm. 

All parties have been invited to describe their platform for Mental Health & Addictions and Crime Prevention and the public will be invited to ask questions. 

The Town Hall provides opportunity for the public to hear from all Parties in a structured, moderated environment. See you there!


Donations to help cover the costs of covering the Manitoba election have come in from conservatives, liberals and yes, even NDP supporters, - and from a Green Party member last week too! There's more that voters need to know about than just the stories corporate journalism puts out. 

Go to this link to see how you can join the donors who stand with my independent media platform.

The fundraising campaign has focused on finding 100 donors at $50 each, but some people have kicked in more, and some less. I appreciate every dollar that my readers contribute and will continue to work hard to bring your questions and issues forward and to hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable. 

Still to come: more election video with PC MLA Shannon Martin, more flawed data and methodology from the WRHA's free needle program failure, and City Hall is going to get an earful about a few things too.