Tuesday, August 27, 2019

MP Ouellette says 800 Adele is ideal for proposed meth detox facility

The Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre has said he's willing to go to bat with his federal counterparts to help restore an existing health care facility in his riding to public use, and take advantage of its existing capacity for 10 or more meth stabilization and detox beds and ample room to housing other services, to help save lives sooner.
 Robert-Falcon Ouellette swung his support behind a drug stabilization unit proposal that started to evolve after my profiles of the success of Morberg House, a residential meth treatment program initiated by St. Boniface Street Links. 

Those stories led to the director, Marion Willis, being invited to see the amenities of the now-empty building at 800 Adele, about 6 blocks from the Health Sciences Centre. 

This past winter the Progressive Conservative government decided to terminate a 20 year contract with the building owners, and ordered the social services agency operating inside to pack up and leave. That dispute is now headed to court, leaving the Class A facility in limbo.

Willis went to the site and determined the facility could be "a centre of excellence for meth treatment and education" with Morberg House working in conjunction with other local addiction services, including the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and the Main Street Project.    
"People know of the issues that we're facing, the security issues and I was talking about that with the West End Biz, the Downtown Biz, we were talking about security issues today, about how we can work together", Ouellette said Friday outside of 800 Adele. 

"But this could be one of the arrows - among many others that we could be using -  in order to get more people into treatment. Because we know there is a lack of beds we could actually be making sure this place is filled up so people can obtain the treatment that they need ... the treatment that leads to long term success."

"Obviously we need partners at the provincial level to do that", the Liberal MP said, "and I'm willing and ready to have discussions with the Health Minister at the Federal level to see what we can do to get more dollars"

In conjunction with a provincial plan that could coordinate aspects like "police, the detox ... harm reduction with needles (being a problem) and also the education component ... there's a lot going on and this is going to be part of it."

 Ouellette was the federal appointee to a tripartate Illicit Drug Task Force this winter that made over twenty recommendations, many of which sought to address methamphetamine use, in addition to opioids and other illicit drugs. 
The task force reported the need for more medical withdrawal and detoxification centres is immediate.
Statistics from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said that between 2014 and 2017, the number of meth users rose 48% among youths and 104% among adults. The average age of a youth using meth is 16 and 81% of their reported cases are girls. Ouellette noted in our interview that AFM "has very long wait times, much longer than a what we have in other parts of the country"

He was a member of the Commons Standing Committee on Health when they met with recovering meth addicts at Morberg House in April and heard firsthand accounts of the depths of the meth crisis and the difficult path from despair to recovery. 

In Committee, Ouelette remarked  "In Winnipeg we know we have a lot of issues in the health care department, the emergency wards, people who are in addictions and security issues for staff who are being hurt.

This week the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives announced a plan to spend up to $7M at Health Sciences Centre "to create 12 new treatment and waiting spaces for people addicted to methamphetamines if the party is re-elected next month." That plan would specifically deliver patients to HSC presenting the dangerous effects of meth psychosis that Ouellette described

Meanwhile, the government will continue to pay approx. $35,000 in rent for 800 Adele while the secure detox unit sits unused, resulting in a dollar-for-value quotient of zero for taxpayers.

The NDP has proposed grouping various addiction treatment facilities near Main St. and Logan Ave. for approx. $4.5M in operating and capital costs.

Earlier in August Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont was first within the political class to talk about finding a way to reopen the mothballed secure bed units and get 800 Adele into the treatment and recovery regime. 

At an election town hall organized by Street Links last week Willis beseeched the candidates to look beyond the legal dispute the government has provoked with the building's owners. 
"What this city needs most has been sitting since February empty, locked up, within walking distance of Health Sciences Centre."
(Video from the panel is at 

In response, Lamont reiterated his belief that "If it's suitable, that should be the place it goes." 

NDP representative Laurissa Sims assured the audience her leader Wab Kinew would welcome a conversation about the functionality and potential use of 800 Adele. 

Green Party leader James Beddome, going head to head with Kinew for the seat in Fort Rouge, stated "it makes complete sense to put a facility there." and asked a resonating question: 

"We're in a crisis so why aren't we doing something?"
Here's where we usual pitch to try to earn your financial support for the independent reporting presented on this blog.

Questions about the government paying rent on the vacant 800 Adele building (and the failed WRHA "harm reduction" needle exchange program) are being exclusively reported on by TGCTS. 

Politicians can be forced to go off script and address YOUR issues. 

That's what citizen journalism does.

To support this work, whether it's by contributing $5.00, $50.00, or more (and some readers have) - go to this post

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reyes Working New Riding To Keep Legislature Seat; Weekend Roundup Of Pronouncements

Coming from a military and small business background, Jon Reyes says he's used to putting in the hard work and long hours needed in seeking re-election to the Manitoba Legislature, as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Waverley. 

I caught up to Reyes at the opening of his campaign office and in this clip, see his explanation about the make-up of the new riding and how his family experience as immigrants helps him understand the challenges that new Canadians in his riding are dealing with. 

Among election announcements this weekend:

- Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont addressed economic issues as part of a 10 year strategic infrastructure plan "to prioritize urgent and high-return-on-investment infrastructure projects. The party promised to invest on average $1.6-billion per year for ten years. 
"This $16 billion investment would see a return of almost $21 billion to Manitoba during that time frame." 

Included will be a study of rail relocation / rationalization for the City of Winnipeg, and costs related to linking it with CentrePort, as well as the possibility of creating a commuter / light rail system on the vacated tracks. The study should cost an estimated $3-million. 

Seeking to expand it's presence in the Assembly beyond the Party status minimum of 4 seats, the Liberals "will also apply previously announced “buy local” and local procurement policies to the projects and ensure there is a level playing field so local companies can apply."

The New Democratic Party attacked PC proposals that focused largely on women's health issues and services, claiming that Premier Brian Pallister "Refused to let the Health Minister answer questions about women’s reproductive health for three years" while closing programs for lactating mothers, mature women, and cutting funding to Cancer Care Manitoba

- Reye's campaign office roommate Sarah Guillemard said a re-elected PC government "will invest $3.4 million per year to implement initiatives that help all Manitobans". 

The promises include enhanced mental health and specialized trauma counselling, establishing a six seat Bachelor of Midwifery program at the University of  Manitoba, and reducing wait times "for Manitobans seeking treatment for eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating."

- Not in the realm of an announcement, but a first-time Green Party candidate messaged me and related the following

"You know what's a very interesting thing ... hearing disaffected conservative voters tell me they're looking for options and voting Green this year." 

Is Green going to be the new "parked my vote" space in 2019?

I have more unique breaking news coming up from the Manitoba election
No one else has the experience I have to dig out news and issues in Winnipeg!

Last week we made waves with exclusive reporting about construction trade contract corruption squeezing Manitoba-based operations.

We are also bring exclusive news about the growing momentum to get the next government to put the vacated care facility at 800 Adele back on the agenda to serve Manitobans as a meth detox and education hub.

Go to this page and see how you can donate to fund my provincial and federal election coverage, with more City Hall reporting on the way!

Help me watch out for you and your family, and keep those seeking your votes on their toes

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Meth Detox Proposal For 800 Adele Gets Support From All Opposition Parties At Town Hall

St. Boniface Street Links election town hall on addictions and crime policy saw widespread agreement on most issues, with slight variations on how to effect solutions, but unanimous interest in a proposal by the host organization to repurpose an existing facility to meet the public health crisis of meth addiction.

The evening began with an introduction of 7 recovering addicts from the Morberg House residential treatment program, who briefly described the lives they had, which their drug addiction has destroyed. 
A former microbiologist; a Coumputer Science major; a 4 year degree program stopped one year short; another with a completed Master's Degree with a PhD; two others wishing to continue their education, and lastly a young grandfather and artist "glad to be off the meth and be a part of my family again." Putting that context to the concept of a "typical" meth addict brought home to the audience and panelists that this is not so much a drug of the pre-existing down-and-out drug-using segment of society, but rather that crystal meth delivers totally normal people to the depths of hell at breakneck speed.

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface, attended the panel held in his riding as did his NDP opponent, Laurissa Sims, and Green Party leader James Beddome seeking election in Fort Rouge represented his party. 
Absent from the Notre Dame Recreational Centre was any speaker for the governing Progressive Conservative Party, which did not send a reply to the invitation. Marion Willis, Director of Morberg House, opened the public Q and A segment with a proposal, after the moderated presentation and discussion by representatives of the three opposition parties. 

Willis described her tour of a mothballed licenced care centre at 800 Adele Ave. in Winnipeg's west end. She was asked to see the building after our widely-watched profiles of the success of Morberg House, an addictions recovery program on Provencher Blvd. in St. Boniface affiliated with Street Links. 

The former nun's residence was leased for use by child welfare agencies for 11 years until the Pallister administration sought to terminate the 20 year contract and ordered a midnight move this winter - but tax dollars are still paying rent on the empty building until next April (video length 2.27).

Willis described the existing 10 stabilization beds with triage on 2 floors and an attached administration building that could become "a centre of excellence to address the meth crisis".

She compared it unfavourably with election promises by Premier Brian Pallister and NDP leader Wab Kinew to spend tax dollars to build new drug detox units.
"It's a Class A turn-key building with 10 beds, the security, it's all there, it's locked in, turn on the lights, put some staff in there, put the Main Street Project, put AFM in there..." 
Willis beseeched the candidates to look beyond the legal dispute the government has provoked with the building's owners. "What this city needs most has been sitting since February empty, locked up, within walking distance of Health Sciences Centre." 

She challenged the panelists what they would do if elected to government, about 800 Adele. Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont replied "If it's suitable, that should be the place it goes." (2.29)

The NDP was in a peculiar position on the issue as it has already committed to an ambitious program of services to be located on Main Street and Logan operated by Main Street Project. But Sims said she was confident that her leader Wab Kinew would be interested in having a conversation about the viability of the Willis proposal as part of their addiction services. (1.20)

Beddome, hoping to unseat Kinew in Fort Rouge, gave a short concise answer stating "we're in a crisis so why aren't we doing something?" (.40)
Lamont, Sims, and Beddome had more to say to the audience about:
 - 800 Adele and the contract dispute between the Pallister government and the owners
the WRHA failing to get used needles they distribute off the streets, and 
- their collective support for a safe injection site which got a surprising (to them) rebuke 
- more to come in a follow-up column soon!
Standing in for the PC Party last night: the very popular rubber chicken.
Here's where we usual pitch to try to earn your financial support for the independent reporting presented on this blog.

No other media hung around long enough yesterday night to get the only REAL news to emerge. 
The ONLY variations from the announced platforms came from the questions about 800 Adele and the failed "harm reduction" needle exchange program - stories exclusively reported on by TGCTS. 
Last night proved that in seeking your vote, politicians can be forced to go off script and address YOUR issues. 
That's what citizen journalism does.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Construction Billings Owed By Mb. Gov't Exempted From Prompt Payment Law/ Guillemard Talks Fort Richmond Issues

Allegations that construction sub-trades hired under provincial contracts are being exploited by underhanded payment and contract practices struck a nerve with readers online, with one raising the issue of whether legislation already in the works would solve the problem.

Whistleblower Jocelyn Burzuik of Sundance Construction told us her own experience with unpaid invoices for completed work was echoed by voters employed in construction that she met on the hustings last weekend. 

She is seeking election in the Red River North constituency which is a new riding and therefore has no incumbent. 
Jeff Wharton, a Pallister government cabinet minister has shifted over from the former Gimli riding to establish himself as the front-runner. 

She held a protest march outside his former constituency office this summer about her own unpaid invoices but he failed to show, resulting in Burzuik taking the leap into politics to squarte off against him.

Burzuik told TGCTS that a deliberate witholding of interim payments was starving the cash flow of Manitoba-based general contractors and subtrades, warning out-of-province bidders now being handed contracts were going to learn a hard lesson.

One reader responded on Facebook about being a victim of the contract abuses:
"The cost start to mount ... the money we invested, remitting GST and source deductions... alot of us subs work for pennies compared to the big guys cause we (have) lesser overhead...but we are suffering. All we want to do is make an honest living and be paid for our services".
Another reader stated:  
"Lots of the time small construction companies can't keep footing labor costs while they're waiting for a large check to come in and get into a situation where liquidation is the only opportunity"

Another brought up a factor Buznuik hadn't mentioned:

Marty- what about the prompt payment bill in the works? From a supplier point of view, contracts are drawn up with progress payments in the deal. Lacking this, is on the contractor. ... What I am saying so there is legislation in the works to provide a legal remedy for prompt payment for contractors and GC’s. This has been in the works for over a year, most industry associations are pushing hard for it.

In a follow up inquiry, Buznuik said that the payment problems caused 
by the government department still wouldn't be resolved.

"The legislation addresses GC (general contractors) to subs and suppliers. 
Once GC gets paid,  the subs (sub-trades)do with short period of time.
But it does not address the #1 problem - delayed payment from owner, 
normally the Gov, to the GC. 

There is no provision for subs even in existing legislation to get paid 
if the GC has not been paid.

If the Gov delays, which they do, prompt payment legislation means 
nothing. 90% of the time, it's the owner delaying payment.

No one talks about that - yet it's the biggest problem.  
The fact is that today, a government Receivable is no longer a 
"good" receivable. 

She says that factor - that timely payments under a Manitoba government 
contract is not seen as worth the paper it's written on - is affecting 
access to bank credit for the GC's and sub-trades.

A former 19 year member of the Canadian Military who started her 
construction company in 2013, she outlined her own current payment 

"Since 2015, I have told Gov departments that I get my cash is 21 days 
or less or I walk. MB Housing - 21 days always.  Hydro 30-45 days. 
MIT 30-60 if they agree on it. INR - I demand cash up front.  
FN's it's cash up front now. 
I don't order materials til 100% of that is fronted. 
I want my labour before I leave bi-weekly. 
Indigenous Services (federal) is paying on 60-180 days normally", she
said,  adding that the provincial Indigenous Northern Relations (INR)
was paying "after 45-180 days - or never."


I gladly took up the invitation of Jon Reyes to drop by the opening of his dual campaign office on south Pembina Highway, where he's splitting rental costs and sharing efficiencies (like nails and hammers for signs) with caucus-mate Sarah Guillemard. 

Both MLA's were first elected in 2016 and are running again under the Progressive Conservative banner, with Reyes relocating to a newly created riding of Waverly, and Guillemard staying put in Fort Richmond. 

Watch this interview clip and see  Sarah describe the slightly altered riding boundaries, and the different issues between the U of M district and the west side of Pembina. She says that expert educators within the riding would help a re-elected Pallister government fix the shortcomings flagged by parents in the overall curriculums. 

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

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 news that voters need to know about than just the stories corporate journalism puts out. 

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:  

Tonight's Drug and Crime policy town hall hosted by St. Boniface Street Links at 271 Rue de la Cathedrale at 7 PM; 
- more election video with PC MLA's Shannon Martin, Reyes and Guillimard; 
- more about 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. 

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 TheJ.ca, 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. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Manitoba Leaders Jockey For Health Care Voters; Seven Oaks ER Closure Not So Heated, Says Tory Hopeful

With a bit of a target on his back, Liberal leader Dougald Lamont matched the governing PC's and opposition NDP in holding a morning press announcement Thursday in the sunny beauty of summery St. Boniface. 

After both parties launched hospital/health care promises in front of his riding's hospital on Wednesday, Lamont countered the next day with some coherent policy ideas to improve mental health services in the province. 

The groundwork has been laid over the past 10 years or so by Dr. Jon Gerrard when he was leader, and Lamont smartly took up the cause. 

One of the notable aspects is to include child (under 18) mental health assessment costs to flag and treat behavioral and learning disabilities as a listed service under Medicare. The 2-3 year wait time for kids to get evaluated in unacceptable and most often puts kids behind their peers permanently. Just ask any school librarian in rural and remote Manitoba, if there are any still being funded. 

Lamont also pledged an improved "access to psychological therapist program", based on a UK model. These are both great ideas, notwithstanding costs, staffing, and the other input factors. Here's the video clip:

The NDP started kicking at Lamont's door by holding the first presser in the riding this week, in La Verendrye Park, across Tache St. from St Bonifice Hospital. But the pitch handed leader Wab Kinew by the orange braintrust was far beneath the weightier expectations of voters and pundits when it comes to the subject of health care priorities. 

Relieving the cost of parking near and at hospitals - a genuine issue in Winnipeg - is still only a bantamweight problem in the big picture and came off as an underwhelming use of the media's attention, especially with Premier Brian Pallister scheduled for the same park withi the hour. The cost of parking, and overtime tickets, when families are stressed out would be a decent part of package of "Five Ways The NDP Will Halt You Being Ripped Off", and the NDP should have found some other gouging issues of fees or permits or fines to champion with it. 

At 10 AM that same day, the Blue Crew set up a podium for Pallister to go big, with a $2B over 4 years spending program highlighted by a new ER for the highly stressed St. Boniface Hospital. 

New personal care home beds, improved diagnostic testing equipment, and more generous grants to hospitals and doctor billings was also on the menu. The media probed how much of the pledge was truly new provincial money compared to incoming increases in federal health care dollars, but Pallister refuted the theory, claiming the feds percentage was based on them having lowering the base amount in the first place, so they were just playing catch-up at a laggardly pace. 

Last weekend, I dropped by the opening of a PC campaign office for a parachute candidate in the new riding of McPhillips, trying to hold onto a seat with the governing Conservatives. 

Shannon Martin has migrated his campaigning machine from Morris to a unique hybrid riding with a chunk of city (mostly Garden City) and an exurban northern half, with common priorities for both of trust and taxation. 

The recent closure of the ER at the Seven Oaks Hospital has been controversial but Martin says that at the doorstep, while "the change has come up ... once you direct them the website, understanding urgent vs emergency ... (we're) ensuring the wait lists have been dealt with", allowing the "significant transition has not been without its stress", before taking a shot at the contradictory positions of Kinew and his erstwhile candidate in Fort Garry, Mark Wasyliw, about the conversion of the ER at the Victoria Hospital.  Here's the video: 


We know we're making waves because of our series on discarded needles and failed harm reduction practices in Winnipeg, and our look into meth and drug treatment programs, found here and here and also here. Plus this look at depressingly unacceptable Winnipeg Police crimefighting results.

TGCTS election coverage is just ramping up and has gotten noticed by political leaders and candidates, online interactors, and Rebel Media's Sheila Gunn Reid who has given me the chance to report on this election to a national audience. 

(Facebook even banned one of our URL's because the 'free needles for everyone' crowd gamed the system by ganging up on our stories. But censorship won't stop us this time.) 

This is only possible because of the financial support of people like you, who value an independent source of analysis and current affairs. 

If only 100 people who care about Manitoba politics and community issues kicked in $50, my coverage of both the Manitoba and the federal election through the end of October would be able to cover the bills. And I'll still keep an eye on City Hall too! 

Here's the page explaining the donor campaign and how to contribute, and stand up for MORE election reporting:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

If "Crime And Fear" Emerges In The Manitoba Election - It Won't Just Be Campaign Rhetoric

Last summer during the Winnipeg civic election, public safety - particularly downtown and in the adjacent neighborhoods - was an early focus of the Mayoral contest.

"On one issue, however, incumbents and challengers alike seem to strike the same mournful tone: public safety." intoned Winnipeg Free Press political scribe Dan Lett, dismissively noting "The debate on public safety is on the verge of veering into hysteria as we inch toward the Oct. 24 civic election"

Hysteria. Keep that word in mind.

In an August 18, 2018 column entitled "Campaign rhetoric returns to crime and fear" he noted one candidate, Garth Steek, "claims he’s had his car broken into 10 times in the last two years and that some of his River Heights neighbours have witnessed violent drug deals and assaults in front of their normally placid, well-manicured front yards." 

Considering the area was the first to organize a "Smashed Windows Club" of victims of car break-ins and thefts, that claim of 10 break-ins was hard to doubt, although Lett seemed to.

Citing "A Probe Research poll in late August 2014 showed that only 23 per cent of respondents ranked crime as the most important issue, " Lett believed that in 2018, the public mood had not shifted on the matter enough to elect a law-and-order upstart, the front-runner being Jenny Motkaluk. He was right. 
But if the public had the police data at the time, one wonders if the phrase "hysterical" would have been fair to use or if the Mayoral vote would have tightened. 
A recent Lance story - a Free Press Neighborhood tabloid - about crime rates in St. Boniface contained the bombshell statistics that should have been on the front page of the parent broadsheet.

2018                                 One year increase     Increase since 2014
Property crimes  2,893          55.7%                     92.9%

Violent crimes       385           28.3%                     27.4%

Total crimes         3639          49.6%                     78.2%

I repeat -- "a rise of 92.9 per cent over the five-year average." 

What if voters last year were aware of the true scope of the failure of the police braintrust since 2014 and reacted to that information? Would only 23% have rated it as their most important issue as they did in 2014 ? 

If Jenny Motkaluk and other candidates had assailed a 92.9% increase of St. B. property crimes in 5 years, would she have been 'verging into hysteria'?

Would anyone have dismissed that as "hysterical' that St. Boniface (a tourist/French residential district adjacent to downtown Winnipeg eastbound) was outpacing the city-wide 5 year average (44%) by an extra 48.9% and that it was a crisis? 
Not coincidentally, St. Boniface was under siege by meth heads, random violence and aggressive panhandling - and plenty o' dirty needles in parks and alleys, to go with the crime. 

In his analysis, Lett slid through an observation about the meth invasion and straight into a miscalculation about policing. 

"Steek and Motkaluk are motivated, to some extent, by a couple of evolving stories that hit the city just before the unofficial start of civic campaign season. At the top of this list is a pressing concern about what the Winnipeg Police Service has dubbed a methamphetamine crisis."

"The issue (Steek) has obsessed over— property crime — is not affected by the number of police officers you put on the street. You could triple Winnipeg’s complement of officers, and you wouldn’t put a dent in the number of garage, car and house break-ins, particularly if that crime is being driven by an issue as serious and complex as drug addiction."

His miscalculation was in not contemplating the way the police service was supposed to be putting a dent into the property crime rate - without more officers. 

James Jewell explains Solve Rates 
But a former cop recently did the calculation, showing how the consequence of reorganizing criminal investigations in 2017 was a horrific misstep that resulted in a unsolved-crime explosion last year. 

(The decaying clearance rates that resulted further complicated the previous failure by Chief Smyth and others to analyze CrimeStats pro-actively as I explained here, compounded by the flop of "Smart Policing" the successor to CrimeStat under Smyth, as The Black Rod explains here. )  

"In the spring of 2017, the WPS consolidated all criminal investigative services under one umbrella, the Major Crimes Unit." wrote former cop James Jewell on his highly regarded Police Insider blog in a brilliant analysis called  WPS Stock Tumbles – No Time for Blamegame

"... pointing the finger at the Provincial Government is far too easy, so is attributing all of our crime problems to the methamphetamine crisisNo-one can deny the fact crime and addiction are inextricably linked. It’s been that way for decades. The only thing that changes is the drug of choice. What Chief Smyth & Mayor Bowman didn’t talk about were some of the not so complex issues that got us here…"

"... Right or wrong, the courts evolved to a place where much less emphasis is placed on incarcerating property offenders
"... In 2018, “lack of consequences” became a major theme at Manitoba Liquor Marts.... Why is the Major Crime Unit investigating theft under offences in the first place?
[And here Jewell makes the policing point Lett missed last year: a flawed operational structure amplified the drug factors behind the 92.9% hike in property crime in St. B.]
"So how does the WPS Major Crimes Unit become paralyzed investigating hundreds of Liquor Mart thefts? We can’t blame methamphetamine for that, can we?
... Theft under $5,000 is not a “major” crime, in fact, it is very much a minor crime, one that, as I’ve explained, has been very much marginalized...
... What crimes would be a priority for the new “centralized” unit? The answer was obvious, violent crime of course."
Et Voila, as they might say in St. Boniface and other neighborhoods in Winnipeg. Needles needles everywhere thanks to an incompetent and data-challenged harm reduction regime of the WRHA, the needle-using meth addicts running amok thanks to lax court conditions, and a police investigation structure that made the types of crime addicts were committing impossible to assign and clear, letting violent junkies lurking on the streets.  
As a reader said to Jewell in concurrance: 
"I strongly believe his reorganization is a large factor in this. The crime units and CSU units took care of the small guys and prevented them from getting bigger per se. This stifled a lot of crime that we see happening today from ever getting to that point. 
They fed Major Crimes with information and assisted, leaving major crimes to do what they do best. 
This reorganization had made the service lose control."
If candidates in the provincial election this year, armed with the 5 year stats (like "92.9%") that were unavailable for civic hopefuls last year, raise the alarm, no one in the press or political arena could call them hysterical. 
Those crime statistics for St. Boniface are a disgrace. And the fear was legit, given how the area Biz asked City Hall for help to deal with the disorder near the hospital. The fear of being robbed or attacked is noticeable in almost every neighborhood now. 
Last year's civic "hysteria" about meth and crime can turn into this year's legitimate provincial election concerns that voters might direct at the governing Tories (primarily). 
Especially when it comes to spending the $20 million budget they proposed wisely:
1) The CBC Manitoba report on the Safer Streets, Safer Lives platform says that out of the $20M, either $8M total or $15M total (it's hard to decipher) is being alloted to drug policing across the province. 
As Jewell proved, a police organizational failure helped get us in this mess but not a dime seems designated to solving it in the Pallister plan. 
Whatever the additional amount for policing pledged to Winnipeg, voters have a right to ask the PC (and all party) candidates, if they share the public's priority to restoring property crime investigations and achieving respectable clearance rates (thereby boosting morale within the rank and file). 
2)   The 3 page document does not mention or allot a dime to enhance data collection about used needles or raise needle return rates. Big fail. 
My investigative series about the WRHA's flawed free needle program has caused some eyes to open in political cirlces and with good reason.
3) "A re-elected Progressive Conservative government would build a short-term detox facility for methamphetamine users ... A key tenet of the proposal is building a detox facility ... It would treat 20 to 30 patients at a time, for a duration of one to four days." 
Such a facility with that capacity already exists, with detox units. The province is paying the rent to keep it empty until March. It's at 800 Adele Ave. near Notre Dame off Arlington. 
Before spending millions and taking years to build and open a detox and treatment centre, the PC plan - and every parties plan - should include evaluating the Marion Willis proposal for the vacated 800 Adele building to try to get it operational and saving lives now, not in 2 years. 

There's 2 elections coming up, so we're coming back.