Thursday, March 29, 2007

CBC poll results help us expose Free Press spin; March 19th -26th

Over the weekend the Winnipeg Free Press released the results of a poll conducted by Probe Research about opolitics and issues. This resulted in an opportunity to provide another lesson in journalism for our listeners, because the story was not in the poll itself, but in the way the paper manipulated the results.

On Tuesday when the CBC released their own results -- from the same poll -- of questions they asked of the electorate, the lesson became a weeklong journey into how mainstream media uses polls to create news and then confuse voters by presenting the information in a twisted manner.

The Free Press reported that the Doer NDP government and PC opposition were tied in popular support among decided voters at 40%, but the riding splits would give the NDP another win at the ballot box.

Our focus was on the Freep's coverage of one issue in the poll questions- about the Crocus Investment Fund scandal.

Freep analyst Mia Rabson repeated the "finding" that only 2% of those polled said the Crocus scandal would affect their voting intentions. She said that this was in spite of the damaging insider leaks about the government ignoring red flags had been before the people while the poll was in the field, and that Premier Doer had skillfully deflected the concerns and disarmed the opposition.

Yet the pollster himself said, he had no idea what the rsult would have been had respondents been asked about Crocus directly. And she neglected to include polling evidence that would have shown, the leaks preceeded the collection of the responses - and also neglected to mention that her newspaper had delayed reporting on some of the leaks until the very last day of the poll, when EVEN more documents were made public which have still not been discussed in the Free Press.

Of course what else did we expect the newspaper to say. The reporters and columnists have to pretend it's a non-issue because they are hopelessly conflicted in covering the Cabinet cover-up, having been the de-facto house propaganda organ for the Fund and mastermind Sherman Kreiner for years until the 'sudden' collapse. And they do this in direct contradiction to the numerous Freep editorials calling for a public inquiry.

* The Dan Lett apologia for Crocus via a "Grit source" had been run up the flagpole weeks ago and was rendered laughable by the reveleations from within the Deprtment of Finance.
* A desperate Frances Russell tried to advance Lett's transparent attempt to rehabilitate Kreiner with her own anonymous-sourced scribblings, in which the fact Crocus had violated the prospectus was considered "debatable" despite admissions in leaked documents and the finding of the Auditor.
* The recent leaks - detailed by the Sun's Tom Brodbeck, which the Freep tried to ignore while the poll was going on - proved the Department of Finance and Minister Greg Selinger were up to their eyeballs in trying to find ways to prop up the Ponzi scheme going back to 2000.

Now Rabson tried to tell us all, only 2% of you cared about Crocus- never mind that the pollster admitted that while it was not a top-of-mind response, he had no way of knowing what the results would have been had people been asked. (By the way, statistically 2% equals the ratio of Crocus investors in the general voting population. Big surprise, that result.)

But they voters polled were asked about their impressions of the Crocus scandal -- just not by the Free Press, but rather by CBC.

And those results of specific Crocus questions asked by CBC blew the last vestiges of Free Press credibility on anything Crocus Fund related out into the orbit of slanted reporting.

To make this simpler, here is a link to the Probe Research results:

Here is what we explained to our listeners, about what the results REALLY mean, and how Crocus could impact the next provincial election:

54% of all respondents wanted a public inquiry into Crocus.
48% of NDP supporters who answered the poll, wanted a Crocus inquiry.
37% of respondents said Crocus would play an extremely important or some role in how they vote
59% of respondents followed the ongoing Crocus developments either closely or to a limited extent
55% of respondents who followed the scandal closely said it would impact their voting intentions
30% blamed the Doer government in whole or in part, for the collapse of the Fund
20% of those who folowed the scandal closely blamed the Doer government

The real story here, ignored by the Free Press and missed completetly by MSM, is that for a voter who follows Crocus, the more seriously they viewed the role of the NDP government and the more likely the scandal would affect their vote, and that even declared NDP supporters do not buy the standard excuse of Doer and Finance Minister Selinger that they were somehow exonerated from responsibility by the Singleton audit.

A final interesting point was the finding that 63% of those 18-34 paid "little or no attention" to Crocus.
That same demographic is also least likely to have invested in Crocus, least likely to follow the news, and least likely to vote.

Even the breakdowns of the socio-demographic support of the parties was bungled by reporters and their editors. The PC's showed a 10 point lead among high-school graduates; the NDP held an 11 point lead among college drop-outs; and the parties were within the margin of error ( a 2 point gap) in support among University grads.

While the Free Press cited the Tory as only leading among high-school grads, they did not explain how that translated into a statistical tie in the middle income grouping and a 44-38 lead among those voters earning more than $60,000 a year.

And then there is the results of questions about top-of-mind issues. Only months ago pollsters were swearing that health-care was not a concern and infrastructure was the vote-moving issue. The voters apparently missed that pronouncement.

"health care/wait times 34%, infrastructure/roads 14%."

Other results of CBC's poll questions showed that in every category voters felt the NDP had performed worse or stayed the same since their election in 2003 - Health Care (74%), Universities and Colleges (70%), Public schools (77%), Economic management (76%), and Environment issues (68%). Although some pundits claimed that by combining the "better or the same" responses , the poll showed the government was doing fine by voters, we made the point that people vote, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, on the basis of whether things are better or not. By that measure the Doer government may have reason to feel antsy when voters are asked to judge their record at the ballot box.

Other guests and topics included:

Monday: The Universoity of Winnipeg was threatening staff layoffs unless cutbacks were achieved, all the while planning massive expansion plans - and faculty and students reacted strongly to the skewed priorities as reflected in the administrative hirings by prexy Lloyd Axworthy; and Frank the Italian Barber joined us in studio with his NCAA basketball predictions (UCLA all the way).

Tuesday: Adrienne Batra of the CTF tore into the federal budget as a strange hybrid- Big government conservatism with a side dish of appeasing Quebec with $2 billion; and Jeff Dveris of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association explained why car dealers felt the feds should have provided incentives to get old higher-pollution beaters off the road rather than tax newer, more fuel efficient SUV's.

Wednesday: Kelly Dehn said we had been way ahead of the curve in identifying car theft and lax criminal sanctions as a serious election issue, as Manitoba Justcie Minister Dave Chomiak headed to Ottawa to lobby for changes to the law to allow for prosecutuion of young offenders; and we were the first to tell Manitobans about the not-so-secret plan of Free Press publisher Andy Ritchie to spend up to $150 million to thwart any move by Quebecor to bring their free morning tab 24 Hours to Winnipeg with his "Project Eclipse".

Thursday: Gord Sinclair tried to blame the Aspers for a security video from the CanWest concourse ending up on YouTube. Junior complained that by showing a native man having a bowel movement in a potted plant while pedestrians walked by, the man's privacy was invaded (as if taking a dump in a public place was a private matter). It seemed to us a self-serving pre-emptive move by Sinclair to play the privacy card in case a video of his admitted verbal abuse and near-assault of a female gas station clerk emerged.
As well, Sports Illustrated had broken a story about a steroid and HGH scandal that found many prominent pro wrestlers including current TNA star Kurt Angle and WWE tag champs Edge and Randy Orton had gotten internet prescriptions filled in 2004/05 by a doctor under FBI investigation, causing a media backlash for WWE heading into Wrestlemania.

Friday: National Post chairman David Asper wrote a scathing rebuttal to Gord Sinclair's column which we read verbatim, as Asper explained what privacy rights really meant and why Sinclair was off-base; We complimented Davey O'Brien's column in the Free Press about the evil of anti-Semitism; A strategic Counsel/CTV poll showed the Harper government with 39% support as the Dion Liberals falter; and CFUN radio in Vancouver was knocked off-air by thieves who broke into their transmitter location and stole the copper (!).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Leaked emails cast NDP Crocus denials in new light- March 12th - 16th

Another week of digging into the Crocus story, spurred on by more Tom Brodbeck bombshells about the Crocus Investment Fund in the Sun over the weekend. Then we got into the act by getting our own copy of the newest batch of leaks coming out of the Department of Finance. The Free Press didn't have em, the Tories didn't have em, but we did after an on-air surprise email. It led to us breaking more news and analysis that closed the gap between the NDP government and the collapse of the Fund.

Monday: We kicked things off with an interview with Sprinfield MLA Ron Schuler. Tarring the government as being knee deep in covering their tracks, Schuler said the Brodbeck excerpts proved that the government knew about trouble at Crocus and should never have allowed John Loewen to be stifled by Crocus officials when he tried to raise alarms in Feb. 2002. While he was defending Loewen, an email arrived on our screen with the emails in full, a startling sequence outlining a discussion between senior Finance officials in November 2000 as Selinger was briefing cabinet.

The emails made clear, that Crocus was headed for trouble when shares were scheduled for redemption, because no one wanted to buy the companies their investments were tied up in. It was in plain English, that monies from new investors were going to have to be used to pay off people cashing out- instead of being invested in Manitoba businesses as required by the law. And despite government protests that they didn't do anything to prop up the fund, it was apparent various changes were made in the years after that had been specifically asked for by Crocus management.

Schuler again went over what happened at the Public Accounts meeting and said that it was now glaringly obvious the government has tip-toed around questions of who knew what and when, and that the Singleton audit never could have been based on this earliest evidence of red flags waving inside the government.

Data Analyst Paul Sveinson came on the line and said that the emails proved that the prospectuses were misleading for years. He said focus should also turn to the role of the Fund's underwriter, Wellington West, and the auditor PriceWaterhouse Coopers, who signed off on the prospectuses knowing that a Ponzi scheme was at play. We also broke the news that Sveinson had filed a complaint with the Federal Auditor-General Sheila Fraser, asking her to investigate because 50% of the tax credits were from the federal treasury.

In other news, we noted that news of the Spirited Energy audit was 6 days old and still hadn't rated as news in te pages of the evidentally conflicted Winnipeg Free Press.

Frank the Italian Barber joined the show to review the suspension of Islander star Chris Simon for stick-mugging a Ranger player in the mush; the suspension of NHLPA exec Ted saskin during an investigation into accessing players email accounts, and the life and times of former Grambling and AFL football legend and pro wrestling headliner Ernie "the Cat" Ladd. Ladd, who passed at age 68, was the biggest man in both sports in his day, helped conquer racial divides in locker rooms and had influence with 2 US presidents.

Tuesday: The Spirited Energy audit still hadn't hit the pages of the Free Press but the leaks that appeared in the Sun on the weekend finally made it to page A6. However Brodbeck unleashed anotyher leaked document in todays paper, keeping the Freep way behind the curve.

We looked deeper into the details of the emails, and took advantage of a rare opportunity to look inside the workings of government to see how they assessed, analyzed and prepared spin over the brewing Crocus debacle. The emails opened a window into how they massaged the trust relationships with Crocus, as senior Finance officials debated which kinds of legislative changes to recommend if any. The practice of "good news signed by minister, bad news by deputy" was one lesson we learned; another was that the bureaucrats read the mood and correctly surmised that Crocus officials would wave the letter sent by the government as a shield against any future scrutiny by the Industry department.

Bernie Bellan said he was of the view that Finance Minister Selinger may have had very good intentions by propping up the Fund with the changes, but that Bellan and other shareholders had been duped and the province had to carry the bag.

One of the legislative changes made was to allow investors to re-up without a cooling-off period as was originally required; Crocus needed the money to pay off other shareholders and Bellan (for one), saw the change as a vote of confidence for the Fund's health, rolled his money over into the Ponzi trap and gotten fleeced by the false prospectus. Bellan also read between the lines of a statement made by Selinger to the Accounts Committee that the shareholders would have some satisfaction via the class action suit, which Bellan interpreted as meaning the government would rather negoiate a settlement than slug it out in court. He also raised the same questions Sveinson had, about the role of the underwriter and auditors in failing to report the problems to the Securities Commission.

During our news round-up we read the report of 3 boys being arrested for mowing down the Wellington Crescent jogger, and realized that one of them had also been involved in last week's demolition derby on Boyd Avenue. One of the other boys had been awol from his probation officer for 3 weeks. So much for the province's monitoring protocol as an effective deterrent.

Wednesday: CTV crime guy Kelly Dehn reviewed the arrest of 3 youths in the Jogger run-down, and said that the public outrage in this matter was going to force some serious political repercussions at the provincial and federal level. He also discussed the federal Liberals announcement they wanted to commit $2 million dollars to fight crime in a suddden conversion to a law and order platform for the next election. "Professor" Dave levinski called in and in a serious vein, said the plice should be recognized for announcign that many suspects and perps of youth crime like car theft are voctims of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and lack basic hard wiring to know right from wrong. He went on to ay that FASD had to be dealt with as a health issue so as to recognize potential problem kids and engage in deterence strategies.

Our other news focus was on the Crocus leaked documents and our reading of them, that the "higher authority" mentioned in the Singleton audit who evidentally authorized certain practices of the Crocus operation - now that we know all of Cabinet was briefed and that Finance made legislative changes in response to Crocus' appeal for help, was the higher authority actually all of Cabinet and not just a single indiviuidual as had been theorized for 2 years?

In sports, we broke the story of Winnipeg boxer Chad Brisson, who went to Federal District Court in Philadelphia to get out of a restrictive contract with big time promoter Russell Peltz. The lightweight contender made Peltz back down and rip up the deal, in the face of damaging evidence that Brisson was being manipulated to sign a new long term deal before getting his promised fights and expenses.

The Sun's Paul Friessen wrote a column attacking Mayor Katz for his analysis of the Blue Bombers "in the black" budget announcement and pointing out the team still owed $3 million for a loan middlemanned by Winnipeg Enterprises. Katz said the team was basically in the red especially when the tax concessions and other government grants were factored in (and what if the Grey Cup hadn't rolled into town?). Friessen made claims about the amount of money that went into Katz' Goldeyes stadium, inflating the correct figure by millions, and insisted that Katz was fronting for David Asper's take-over/stadium bid because the naming rights to the Goldeys home park were due to expire in 2 years.We clarified the obvious mistakes and also explained the naming rights weren't up for another 20 years.

Most importantly, Friessen senselessly ragged on the Mayor for insisting the Stakeholders Committee hadn't been legally disbanded. Friessen repeated the Bombers lie -- and left out the part where Premier Doer himself had stepped forward months ago to say, the team was wrong and the Mayor was right, and the Stakeholders Ie the city and province -- still had a say in the team.

Thursday: Tom Brodbeck returned to the show and went over the leaks from insiders about Crocus as it dissolved. He also joined in a dramatic recreation of an interview on CJOB's Larry Updike with Premier Doer, where Doer avoided every question about what the government knew in 2002 and 2000, claiming it was all covered by the Singleton audit. This was far from true as Singleton only reviewed material from 2002 onward.

Tom also disputed the Tories procliaming John Loewen was a champion of the Crocus shareholders, telling the story of how Loewen clammed up and didn't provide the media with a single angle or lead to pursue after he suddenly cancelled his Feb. 2002 press conference when threatened with lawsuits by Crocus heavyweights.

In sports we debuted the special Fan Commentary segment and the voice of the controversial Brother Midnite was heard loud and clear. Somehow the enigmatic former cable TV personality connected the laws of the jungle- literally talking about the temperment of walruses - "or is it walrii?" with the spate of violent on-ice incidents in the NHL. You had to hear it to believe it.

Finally Red River College filmmaker Sean Best debuted his short about backyard wrestling called "The Main Event" at the Garrick this morning, starring a bunch of untrained pretend wrestlers from Winnipeg and Winnipegosis bashing each other with light tubes and other plunder, and the efforts of a certain talk show host to make sure parents and kids knew it was an uncool practice with his annual Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) educational campaign. Kids, get proper wrestling training and don't imitate what you see on TV.

Friday: The new car theft stats were subject to another Brodbeckian going-over in the Sun and his column explained that even with the cold snap, we are headed for a record year in thefts and attempted thefts, on pace for over 14,000. We also did our best to wrap up our week and review all the interviews on the Crocus file.

The Winnipeg Sun was looking to buy-out 6 editorial stafferers in light of centralization by Quebecor, while the Free Press continued to ignore the Spirited Energy audit, pretended the latest leaks about Crocus didn't exist, and printed outtakes of an interview transcript with NDP MP Pat Martin who backtracked on his theory the NDP may have to look at merging with the Liberals federally and claimed to have been misquoted by reporter Joe Paraskevas.

The death of former Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was the focus of sports. Kuhn presided over a period of enormous change in MLB including suspending 30 game winner Dennis McClain for gambling, instituting league playoffs and night World Series games, bringing in the designated hitter in the American League, standing up to firesales of star players by Oakland A's owner Charlie O. Finley, suspending powerful owners George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner, and the strike of 1981 which was the end of Kuhn's reign.

Our first Cody report hit the airwaves with a preview of weekend fun Peggers could get into.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Crocus Cabinet Cover-Up series: March 5th- 9th

When Premier Gary Doer returned from Washington DC last Thursday he had to immediately try to do damage control duties over a Cabinet briefing note from November 2000, which was leaked to the Liberal caucus.

Doer tried to convince the media that the Cabinet memo which hit the press while he was away, had nothing new and it was already covered by the Singleton audit, and claimed it didn't in any way show his government had acted specifically to cover up for the Fund operating in contravantion to the perspectus. Problem was, even if some in MSM took the bait, a lot of things were being looked at by the public in a new light -- and found wanting.

That didn't matter to the Free Press, who devoted an entire front page of the Saturday paper to pointing readers to an "analysis" provided by "an unnamed Grit source" that tried to downplay the collapse and losses of 34,000 shareholders.

The Great Canadian Talk Show dedicated a special week to getting into the contents of the briefing memo and what it really meant, and to hear from some of the players in the unfolding political and legal mess.

Each day we conducted an in-depth interview about Crocus, along with our usual features and notes.

In order, we spoke with Bernie Bellan, secretary of the Crocus Shareholders group; Paul Sveinson, the data analyst who is crunching the figures and helped unravel the connections between the Fund and who got money from it; Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen; on Thursday we previewed the Public Accounts Committee hearing and finally on Friday we got the report about the hearing from Liberal MLA Kevin Lameroux.

Here is a summary of what we discussed and the major issues being missed by news reporters.

Bernie Bellan explained the briefing note got him upset because he had rolled his shares over when the three year cooling-off period had been revoked. Bellan was told he was investing in Manitoba businesses, but the Cabinet memo proves that back in 2000, the government knew that new investors money like his was actually going to be used to pay out those investors who in essence, bailed.

Bellan rejected the Free Press feature as slanted by the paper's relationship with the current employer of former Crocus honcho Sherman Kreiner, University of Winnipeg president - and former Grit godfather of Manitoba - Lloyd Axworthy.

With the U of W embarking on major capital projects with Kreiner helming the campaigns, damage control came from the Kreiner defender that Sherm's plan to save Crocus was thwarted by bureaucrats in Industry and Mines who "hated Crocus" and who fought against changes to the law. Bellan pointed out the changes actually were made by the NDP, just not as fast as Kreiner wanted, changes which in then end, served to fund a Ponzi scheme while questionable investments and exhorbitant expenses were being rung up.

And then there was the illegal loan from the Solidarity Fond in Quebec, which was described as an "investment" and then used to cook the Crocus books and give it the illusion of stability and liquidity.

Bellan didn't believe that the government, whether by the reports of the Crocus board rep appointed by the govenment or by the research memos of the bureaucrats, didn't know the Fond loan was fishy. And as for the government's insistance Singleton had seen the note and included some references to it even if it wasn't in the timeline chart he prepared of the collapse -- Bellan wasn't buying it.

Paul Sveinson elaborated on problems with the way Crocus made investments that were social engineering and/or social climbing in nature, and not in the pursuit of a fair return for shareholders.

He especially focused on the sports industries, such as buying up a piece of the Manitoba Moose, putting up money for the construction of the MTS Centre, funding the ballpark and loaning money to the Winnipeg Goldeyes ball club, and the oddball decisions to pour endless sums into entertainment industry failures like Westsun ($21 million) all the way down to Blye Brothers ($1 million, zero films produced).

We had called the RCMP and asked about whether the shocking implications of the leaked Cabinet memo had been examined as part of their criminal investigation, given their access to the Singleton audit review. We reported exclusively -- No one at the RCMP could tell TGCTS they had seen a copy of the note signed by Finance Minister Greg Selinger (which was supposedly available to Singleton when he wrote his report although he said he never saw it). All they would say is "the investigation is ongoing."

Tory leader Hugh McFadyen came on the air and reviewed the reasons why this memo proved that an independent public inquiry was necessary to sort out the responsibility of the NDP for Crocus investors losing millions. He said he accepted the claim by current Provincial auditor Carol Bellringer about the briefing note having been in the audit file, but said he would stick to his guns and force another review beyond Singleton's, even if the spring budget had to be held up. He dismissed the anonymous-sourced Free Press story that had tried to spin the affair away from the need for a public inquiry - an inquiry frequently called for by the editorial department.

When challenged about how he has handled the Crocus file thus far in the Legislature, McFadyen was firm that his move to stop the bell-ringing last year was the right call because the opposition didn't have this kind of 'smoking gun' evidence about the NDP's repeated denials in Question Period of having known before 2002 of the Fund's precarious position were in fact loaded with weasel words and terminology. He said he would do it again (stop the bells) under the same circumstances.

We set out a series of questions that the Opposition could pursue before the Public Accounts Committee met on Thursday. As well, columnist Frances Russell had hopped onto the deflect the blame bandwagon the paper started on the weekend.

In a piece designed to have it both ways, "Govermnment cannot evade blame in Crocus affair", Russell used two more unnamed "sources" and Free Press favorite pundit Prof. Paul Thomas, to again twist what went wrong, now forwarding the claim Crocus may not have been violating its prospectus despite the Auditor's conclusion, and if only the NDP had allowed Crocus all the legislative changes it had asked, it would have had a fair shot against all the other labour funds. And then there was this apologia for Premier Doer:

" " ...we're using third parties outside government to deliver programs but we haven't invented sound accountability mechanisms for them " (said Thomas) ... leaving the public interest - and the taxpayers dollars - in the hands of boards of directors, frequently "enlightened amateurs" at best..."

Many of the appointees being criticized happen to have been NDP appointees for whom the government is responsible but Russell ignores that critical fact.

We also noted that the Freep had ignored the news Bellringer had decided on Tuesday, to conduct an audit into the Spirited Energy branding campaign, which meant the Free Press business relationship with the campaign was also under the microscope.

On Friday Inkster MLA Kevin Lamoreaux told our audience that he had no doubt the NDP was hiding even more information, and that Selinger had lied to the House when confronted with questions about Crocus in the past. However we pointed out that a CJOB reporter had told us that the meeting was taken up by motions and debates for an hour and 45 minutes, leaving only an hour and 15 for questions.

While admitting that perhaps the public was not happy that so much time was wasted, he explained that two of the motions were meant to get answers as sworn testimony and to limit responses to 4 minutes. Those seemed reasonable enough and he was shocked the NDP outvoted the motion for the evidence to be sworn. But then the NDP moved for the opposition leaders to apologize to the Finance Minister, a move clearly designed to waste time arguing with the opposition and stall out the time limit.

Lamoreaux said it was gratifying that the Liberals had gotten the leak last week and that he would continue to do his best to represent shareholders and taxpayers concerns in the House, as the Singleton report obviously didn't cover what the Finance Minister knew about the Fund in 2000.

In addition to our Crocus Cabinet cover-up review, we also:

Interviewed former WWE developmental talent Kenny Omega about his tag title match at the PCW event at the Lid, on a show headlined by Spike-TV star Samoa Joe. Omega had some interesting insights into the style of training for WWE and how it is not truly reflective of the styles popular around the indy circuits, and on learning the complex art of story-telling in the modern age in the ring;

Frank the Italian Barber railed about the possibility NHLPA exec Ted Saskin reading players emails, and about Ryan Smyth's agent provoking the trade from the Oilers over a difference of about $200,000 in a contract dispute;

Kelly Dehn of CTV went over the crime scene and car theft statistics, a scene which by Friday was dominated by an incident where a stolen car was used to mow down a male jogger on ritzy Wellington Crescent, an act so shocking even the remaining complacent elements within the media woke up to the danger being posed by youth criminals and gangbangers to the public;

And inaugural reports were aired from Shannah-Lee on the Human Race Machine on display at Red River College, which creates images of a face in other races; and from Cody who provided a preview of what to do around town on the weekend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Crocus leak sets the tone - Feb 26th - March 2nd

Over the weekend a leaked November 2000 Cabinet memo raised questions about when the NDP govermment first knew the Crocus Investment Fund was in serious trouble and had turned into a Ponzi scheme. We got right into it and looked at angles the mainstream media couldn't or wouldn't talk about.

Monday: Liberal leader Dr. Jon Gerrard, who got the brown envelope with the leak, joined the show and explained the origin of the briefing note and the meaning of the text. He had questions whether former Auditor Jon Singleton had seen it when he issued his report, because at no point did the report say anything about Cabinet being notified about Crocus troubles back in 2000. In fact Singleton told the Free Press he never saw it in 2005 when he did his review.

This leaked document also raised a new questions about the concealed loan from the Solidarite Fond of Quebec in 2002, which was the Auditor cited as having been falsely characterized in the prospectus and to shareholders as an investment but which actually was used as a bookeeping device to keep the Fund operating legally. How did the Finance Minister and Cabinet not recognize it for what it was? And with the House not in session, how could the opposition get answers?

Gerrard fielded criticism that it was partly his own fault the House was not sitting, as an all-party agreement had set the dates. He said that while the Liberals had agreed to a set end-of-session date, he had presumed that the NDP call the House into session earlier as a result, and felt duped by the NDP.

The Winnipeg Free Press went on the offensive, criticising CTV and Global for showing court-approved footage of the murder of Edwin Yue as not being in the public interest, while the Freep also quoted a CBC honcho in support. Of course we asked the question, why shouldn't the public be able to evaluate the accused claims of self-defence ? And since the Free Press insisted that the divorce file of Mayor Katz should be opened to their scrutiny, why did that instance qualify as the public interest, expecially since not one word has been reported about the contents of the divorce file since?

Frank the Italian Barber looked at the NHL trade scene, and we previewed the jersey retirement ceremony slated on Tuesday for Edmonton Oiler great Mark Messier. A call from Shane Madison became a Mazel Tov session as the Mecca announced his engagement; the sound listeners heard was hearts breaking in every nightclub across River City.

Tuesday: Adrienne Batra of the CTF helped walk us through the meaning of the leaked Crocus briefing note and the implications for the government and the more she explained, the worse it got.

The briefing note outlined a number of possible legislative changes Crocus execs were asking for; and although Finance Minister Greg Selinger said in a rare Saturday news conference that the government did nothing at the time, the fact is they made changes shortly thereafter and also allowed Crocus to oversell to be able to use the cash - illegally- to pay off redemptions. So it was not only the date of the memo which Batra found disturbing, but the message that was brought to Cabinet. Yet the Attorney-General turned a blind eye to the Crcous Fund operating a Ponzi scheme and did not report it to the Manitoba Securities Commission, who also ignored other complaints at the time.

And despite the late-afternoon claim that the new Auditor had found this 'smoking gun' memo in the files Singleton had reviewed, that didn't mean anyone would believe it was in the files when the review had been conducted.

In sports callers were incenced at the trade of Ryan Smyth by the Oilers to the Islanders, and the fact the trade took the thunder away from this evening's Messier affair.

Wednesday: Kelly Dehn of CTV told us all about the breaking news. A truckhad been driven up the stairs of the Worker's Compensation Board on Broadway and police had evacuated parts of downtown because of fear the truck was rigged. WCB has an incident every decade or so but this one was pretty unusual, was when the suspect was taken into custody the truck was full of clothes and what appeared to be medication.

Turning back to the Crocus file, we reminded listeners that the new Auditor, Carol Bellringer, had herself been a Crocus Board membera nd as such, could not be seen as an impartial source for any explantion about the file and what was in it and when. Are there more documents now found in the file which Singleton had not seen? What other cabinet documents from before 2002 about Crocus were there? You coud tell this leak had stirred things up, because on CJOB this morning the first calls were pro-NDP flaks, then a few more callers like former City Councillor Peter Kaufmann asked serious questiosn about the judgement of some of the officials involved, and still others said, "public inquiry".

Lastly we broke more news on astpory we've been following.

Contract negotiations between Unicity Taxi and the Winnipeg Airport Authority had broken down, when the WAA tried to convince the cabbies to pay $400,000 a year for service rights but said it could be recouped if Unicity applied to the Taxicab Board for an added meter fee of $2.00, $1.75 of that to be paid to WAA.

In other words, the cabbies take the heat from the traveling public and WAA pockets 7/8ths of the increase.
Fat chance, said Unicity.

The proposed Avion shuttle was never mentioned in negotiations, but we learned that the airport's wholly-owned for-profit subsidiary had tried to get the Public Utilities Board to bypass a public hearing as requested by City Hall and got the thumbs down, and were told by PUB the hearing would cost them $50,000.

Thursday: We quickly recapped the Crocus file and WCB aftermath, as well as breaking news about a massive property portfolio sale in the city, as Sun-X sold 46 warehouse buildings and 35 acres of undeveloped land to a BC consortium led by Bentall Capital.

The rest of the show was a special edition about pop and rock music and collectables with Rockin Richard, with resident musicologist Dee Hooker joining us to talk about old local mainstay bands like Orphan and The Pumps. March 1st was the anniversary of Buddy Holly's first appearance in England in 1958, which was a key moment in the history of the development of many UK bands and the future English Invasion.

Friday: Premier Doer returned from Washington DC and made a statement about the smoking gun memo that it was not significant and that the Singleton report had dealt with the gist of it in relation to the liquidity issues Crocus faced. But a letter to the Editor of the Free Press showed how far confidence had sunk in the government's version of events. We explained to the audience that Crocus was not only about the shareholders, or those who were duped into iunvesting when the Fund was floundering and the public wasn't told.

WCB and TRAF had invested millions into Crocus schemes and this was done by governemnt appointees, who sat on each other's boards. Tom Ulrich had complained about TRAF's gambling retired teacher's pension money with Crocus and was rewarded with being fired and a lawsuit.; WCB's Pat Jacobsen voiced similar concerns and was run out on a rail.

The pattern of government appointees shutting up anyone who dared to point out what Cabinet itself already knew - that Crocus was more risky than people were being told - were punished and intimidated.

Another Winnipeg resident in the North End installed cameras to catch car thieves and vandals, and his efforts got attention across MSM. He had suffered $33,000 in losses and damage since moving in and was fed up.

Tim Bigelow of Kick-FM joined us in sports to talk about the upcoming MJHL playoffs which are being covered live on our station. Then we previewed UFC 68 and the chances for Canadian Jason McDonald and unretired-and-moving-up-to-heavyweight Randy Couture to emerge victorious.

Lastly we wondered, if Red Rover has been banned from schools because it is somehow hurtful, then why isn't dodgeball banned as well?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spirited Energy fails to dodge Brodbeck, our trip to BC scores new TV series; Feb. 21st - 23rd

An unusual week for us as we enjoyed a pre-emptive February holiday on Monday - and extended it to Tuesday - to see what it will be like when the government finally enacts legislation ( did we mention the Manitoba Federation of Labour takes credit for the holiday initiative at the NDP convention, but wer actually opposed to a Feb. stat and instead had wanted a stat holiday on June 21st?).

In fact we were in British Columbia for 4 days for meetings with the regional Clear Channel telecaster KVOS on behalf of Island Sports and Entertainment. But in a shortened three show week, we managed to stir up more than a few issues.

Wednesday: Kelly Dehn of CKY TV delved into the lack of a formal protocol for high-risk entries such as the Jubilee incident where 3 cops were shot. He agreed with our point that tension between the brass and police union may be at the root of the reluctance to institute specific rules - as that may lay the groundwork for endless grievances and lawsuits when things go wrong. When the discussion turned to MPI bragging about suing a young car thief for $110,000 which the insurer may never be able to collect, Kelly revealed that he, too, had his truck vandalized while parked downtown recently and knows firsthand some of the aggravation felt by victims he profiles in newscasts.

A online story about the Canadian Taxpayers Federation handing out their TEDDY Awards caught our eye for the use of the phrase "claims to be" when describing the mission of the CTF. Using a Google News search to illustrate appropriate instances where to use the term ( such as people who "claim to be" kidnapped by UFO's), we explained that when MSM outlets use the phrase in reporting on a public organization is without fail, a premeditated attack on the group in question, particularly in this case.

The CTF does not "claim to be" a non-profit, non-partisan organization - IT IS. Using the loaded phrase "claims to be" was designed to undermine the sincerity and credibility of the CTF's important work in holding bureaucrats and government freespenders to account.

We told listeners about a costly mistake at the Free Press when a front page item identified Nicola Goddard as a casualty in Iraq. Only she served our country in Afghanistan. The print run was pulled and the item corrected, but how it slipped through is hard to understand since every editor would know Canada is not engaged in the Iraq conflict.

Thursday: While catching up on odds and ends, we made sure to provide another lesson in journalism, and correct the Free Press about their own correction.

A story about provincial electricians threatening to take action against the Department of Labour for failure to enforce safety standards was headlined that the incident rate was going up. Unfortunately for the newspaper, right in the story it said the rate had been going down for years.

Simple enough, right? These things happen.

Except by the time they were done, the paper apologized for the story from "Tuesday" - it ran Wednesday - and it was on the "front page", when it was on B1. It was almost impossible for readers to figure out what they were really apologizing for.

Three callers joined the show, all upset with MPI and their PR campaign trying to make ratepayers believe the efforts to collect damages from car thieves was of any true significance. Based on our analysis, the $300,000 collected last year amounted to less than 1% of the real cost.

Friday: Tom Brodbeck was on a roll, with 2 important stories for us to talk with him about. His take on climate-change nagger David Suzuki included the revealing facts about the professors own enviro-record, starting with traveling in a huge fuel-guzzling bus which was going cross-country with only 8 of 30 seats filled.

This revelation got Tom some national coverage. We pointed out a Free Press item about farmers complaining of global warming causing a 30% decrease in ice thickness on the Red River over a 12 year period. Mind you, it was a historical item in their weather map feature, and the farmers were complaining in 1898 not lately, and here it was over a hundred years later so maybe some of this warming is cyclical, maybe? Brodbeck poked a lot of holes in the campaign of climate-change alarmists trying to convince us that scientists are not debating the issues when they are.

But the Spirited Energy campaign was even more startling. Tom got a request to his Freedom of Information request, without having to pay the $750 fee demanded. However the government did not release the actual invoices Tom asked for, but rather a summary of the expenditures was provided.

This in itself is a violation of the usual NDP edict that no new documents will be created to fulfill a request for information - in other words, if what you are asking about isn't already written down or itemized, you are SOL. So Brodbeck got special treatment which he did not fall for whatsoever.

Other pundits said the list should suffice, but Tom explaied that such FOI requests are like forensic investigations, and the dates, contents and signatures on the invoices were all valid points of information the public is entitled to know.

When the Spirited Energy campaign was raised at the Public Accounts Committeee, all three parties voted unanimously to ask the Auditor-General to look into the file, which Tom figured was a cynical NDP ploy, to appear committed to transparency but knowing the Auditor is swamped and won't get to the issue until long after the expected spring election.

Frank the Italian Barber joined us on the phone and predicted the Hockey Night in Canada games for the weekend. He also said CBC's Scott Oake needs a good haircut.

Robin Ann Rich called in from her new bar, Sin City, and explained why former dancers had entered the business side of licenced establishments. Not without a few bumps on the road, including the key busting off in the lock to the bar fridge on opening weekend, making it kind of hard to accept the beer delivery.

Finally our resident business expert Shaun Myall called in form Vancouver and touched on the business climate in Victoria (robust and growing), Vancouver's pending 2010 Olympics fiasco (costs spiraling out of control to the point Jean Drapeau's handling of the Montreal Games of 1976 will make him look like a slash and cut Republican), and ending with the announcement that Island Sports and Entertainment was given a time slot for a regular series about professional wrestling, with your humble host now also, the voice of Power Pro Wrestling on KVOS-TV.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Dissecting misleading opinion poll and Driskell Inquiry conclusions, and a Bobby Hull record revisited: Feb. 12th -16th

Monday: In a story almost completely unreported within the mainstream media, the results of an Angus Reid poll showed that contrary to the headline on their press release, TV ads of the Conservative Party of Canada had in fact affected the standing of Liberal leader Stephane Dion. The ads, which used footage from the Liberal leadership campaign debates, was trumpeted as having done little to undermine support for Dion.

The press release stated "The television spots released by the Conservative party to question the traits of Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion had a negligible impact on the perceptions of Canadians, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies."

However a reader of the blog dug into the Angus Reid website and found the actual questions asked of voters who watched the ads and their responses posted, and the truth was quite the opposite.

On page 4 of the poll, support for Dion in key areas such as "has what it takes to lead Canada", "trust to keep his promises" , and "manage taxpayer money ethically and wisely" slid from more in favor of the statements to more opposed; and on his supposed strong suit "will improve Canada's environment", a 23 point lead for Dion shrunk to a 10 point margin.

This was an invaluable opportunity to clue in listeners to the way pollsters manipulate their reports of voters moods and opinions to advance a slanted agenda, and to explain why the MSM's unquestioning use of such press releases is cause for concern.

The founder of Canada Sheli, Ron East, made his first appearance in our studio, along with a special guest from the Israeli Defence Force. Yiftach is a 24 year old IDF pilot on a public speaking tour across Canada to explain the challenges the IDF has faced in defending the State of Israel from terrorists attacking from Gaza, Palestine and Lebanon. What we found most interesting was the sense of obligation native-born Israeli's have to serve in their armed forces and protect their country despite a world political order which barely acknowledges their right to exist let alone defend themselves.

Frank the Italian Barber joined us for an abbreviated look at sports, which included a first person account sent by National Post columnist Scott Taylor about batting against the late fastballer Eddie "The King and his Court" Feigner and getting two hits which was a surprise to everyone especially Taylor. According to a wire report about his life and times, in a 1967 exhibition at Dodger Stadium, Feigner had struck out Baseball Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey, Maury Wills and Harmon Killebrew in order. The barnstorming act of Feigner and his 4 man team played 55 countries and was a very popular attraction in Winnipeg.

Tuesday: Three recent violent incidents were still being investigated by city police with varying success. A vicious sexual assault and shakedown off of Sargent Avenue had netted one of three suspects, all of them members of the Mad Cowz street gang. The Burrows Avenue shooting case saw the arrest of the second brother accused in the incident. However in the third case, the stabbing and shooting at the Jamaican Hall still had no suspects. Listeners noted that all three cases involved gunfire.

Enter Anita Neville. The Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre had launched a tirade against Ottawa Tory MP Pierre Poulievre and demanded an apology for his comment that Winnipeg "streets are ruled by guns, gangs and thugs" because the previous Liberal administration was soft on criminals.

"It is outrageous, it is misleading ... I am so angry...They are casting aspersions on Winnipeg when there is all kinds of economic outreach happening to try to attract people to the city." Neville told the Winnipeg Sun.

In a terse conversation via telephone, she reiterated her view that Winnipeg was no worse off than other cities facing urban challenges. She completely dismissed the trio of cases we had just reviewed on-air as being any reason for outsiders to look at our city in the way Poulievre described. Neville did admit she would support legislation for mandatory minimum sentences
-- depending on which crimes were being included -- but otherwise seemed completely oblivious to the fact the civic election had been fought and won on crime and public safety and that growing issues like car theft and vandalism, gang warfare and downtown muggings had soured residents themselves on the state of the city let alone tourists.

Wednesday: Three interviews covered news sports and weather in fine fashion.

To start off CTV's Kelly Dehn discussed the memorial service for the two fallen firefighters as well as the three violent incidents we discussed with Anita Neville.

In the next segment, Valentine's Day was a significant milestone in Winnipeg and hockey history. On Feb. 14, 1975 the Winnipeg Jets faced off against the Gordie Howe led Houston Aeros in the season's 50th game. Bobby Hull was chasing the holy grail of hockey records, the 50 goals in 50 games benchmark set by Rocket Richard in 1944-45, and a full house of 10,418 including your then-youthful host crammed into the old Arena to cheer on the Golden Jet.

Former Jets defenceman Mike Ford joined us from his Westward Ford car dealership in Portage la Prairie and the years melted away.

The hard shooting rearguard described how Hull burst out of the gate and scored within 2 minutes to start the game. Ford scored a goal that night to tie it up at 3 -3 with 4 minutes left in the second period and Hull potted another with assists from centre Ulf Nilsson and Ford 42 seconds later. The third period was full of drama as Jets goalie that night, Curt Larssen made every save an adventure to hold the lead.

But gaining the win was secondary to the quest of the great Bobby Hull. Finally with only 1.33 left Nilsson and Ford again set up Hull whose hard shot deflected behind Aeros netminder Ron Grahame and propelled Hull into the record books, with 50 goals in 50 games.

Mike Ford agreed with our view that Hull's chase of Richard firmly established the Jets as a fundamental part of the community even though the team missed the WHA playoffs by a single point that season. In later years, NHL stars like Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux and others (all beneficiaries of the changes in the game initiated by the Jets in the Hull/hedberg/Nilsson era) surpassed the 50-in-50 mark, but to our surprise a google search turned up no mention of the great achievment by Bobby Hull in 1975. Hopefully we have done our part to make sure hockey fans in Winnipeg never forget.

To round out the show, CBC-TV personality Murray Parker told our audience how he decided to return to the airwaves as part of CBC's expanded one-hour News at 6 package. After taking a buyout in the early 90's and getting his pilot's licence, Parker decided to audition for the new weather post and to his surprise, was chosen to join new anchor Janet Stewart. He had left CBC when computers were not the norm and the weatherboard temperatures were filled in by hand, but he told us he'll leave his chalk at home for now.

Thursday: The Driskell inquiry report somehow concluded that no charges should be laid against various Crown Attorneys and police officers, yet the public was expected to believe they had all failed in various ways to ensure James Driskell got a fair trial in the early 90's.

We explained how the inquiry was framed to deliver a foregone conclusion, and deliberately excluded evidence that formed the basis for the jury convicting Driskell of murdering Perry Dean Harder (that is, evidence besides the hair match which was proven faulty by DNA testing). We made the point that by blaming the officials and refusing to recommend charges, they ( ie. prosecutors George Dangerfield and the late Bruce Miller) were smeared with no recourse; similarly if any private citizens were ever accused or suspected of allowing witnesses to commit perjury, we'd be facing a court whether it was 5, 15 or 30 years later.

A new study from the University of Toronto generated a lot of callers angry with the conclusion of academics that organized team sports somehow contributed to male violence in youths by teaching bad things. You know, like teamwork, leadership, risk-taking, and that in life there are winners and losers. No one believes the study should be taken seriously so we won't.

Callers were split however, on the idea floated from CFL HQ that the league may look at selling naming rights for the Grey Cup game, but no one seriously believed it would be worth $1 million per team so once again, we won't either.

Friday: Fallout from the Driskell inquiry report continued in the form of a Tom brodbeck column inthe Sun. Tom reached the same conclusion we had, that a private citizen accused of participating in perjury would never escape a criminal charge. But Justice Lesage for whatever reasons felt smearing the public officials and cops was an adequate way to deal with their supposed misdeeds. Another good question is why, if key witness Ray Zanidean lied on the stand, why is he not being charged either?

A great story on discussed why Ralph Goodale owes the Mounties an apology. When the Income Trust leak investigation started, Goodale said his department was clean. With a charge now laid against an official of his former Ministry, the RCMP may have only scratched the surface of the insider trading scandal that helped propel Stephen Harper into the Prime Minister's office.

The blog noted a comment on radio by market analyst Fred Ketchen who explained that unless this single official had dozens of stock brokers, he was not the (only) reason for market fluctuations and voluminous trading activity in the hours before Goodale's policy announcement last year. For some reason no other media outlet has pursued this important question.

More about the speculation that the CFL was going to sell naming rights for the Grey Cup championship game. Our business specialist Shaun Myall of Victoria thought it was great idea and spoke about how naming title games after sponsors is commonplace in all but the very biggest events.

Ol' Dirty Money unloaded a special announcement at the end of the show. His Island Sports and Entertainment was flying your humble host to BC for a fast-paced weekend of prepping and voicing a demo reel, and presenting it to KVOS-TV on Monday at a meeting in downtown Vancouver.

With a chance to pitch a weekly pro wrestling show in a major market presented on short notice, Kick-FM was more than happy to prepare two very special "Best Of" episodes next week, a pair of Mayor Katz interviews on Monday and a double bill of Adrienne Batra and former Jets goalie Joe Daley on Tuesday...