Friday, September 20, 2019

Trudeau Starts Damage Control Tour To Subdued Reception

It was a political event unlike any I have ever seen in Winnipeg, short on the spectacle and heavy on the drama, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to dig his way out of the hole he would never let any opponent climb out of. 

His 'look at meeee', life-of-the-party behavior had finally put him across a line he himself has drawn repeatedly for not only opponents but members of the Liberal Party. His aura of progressive superiority is permanently punctured and the international media is having a field day .
Justin Trudeau striding to the microphone in Winnipeg
Wednesday evening Time Magazine published a photo from a costume dinner party from 2001, taken when Trudeau was a teacher at a ritzy Vancouver private school. Most in mainstream media called it "brownface" and he spoke about it  on the campaign plane that night as him "wearing make-up"

He also admitted in a damage-control scrum there was also a high school event where he had done the same to sing The Banana Boat Song (that photo was circulated about an hour later). 

The Black Rod noticed that 

"before he broke off from reporters, a questioner asked him,  "Do you want to tell Canadians about any other instances where you were concerned that you were racist, or had blackface or brownface on?" 

"The answer was a bombshell. "I think, uh,'s been plenty."

Before the plane landed his scheduled rally at the Grand Mosque with incumbent Terry Duguid in Winnipeg South for Thursday was canceled - and the trickle of "plenty" started the next morning. 

Global News posted a video, acquired by the Conservative Party, of a blackfaced Trudeau taken sometime between high school and his teaching job, that Warren Kinsella described as "Trudeau’s acting like an ape. Sticking out his tongue, waving around his arms, shuffling around like a simian would, in a zoo or a jungle or something. 
"I showed the video to my shocked colleagues when they came into the office. Two of them are card-carrying Liberals. They agree with me: Justin Trudeau was in blackface, acting like an ape." 
The venue chosen to address the 3 now-known incidents was Old Market Square, a park in the scenic Exchange District that has seen all sorts of performances over the decades, but never like the show Trudeau had to put forward. 
Liberal MPs: Terry Duguid talks with a pensive Kevin Lamoureux,
with Jim Carr standing behind KLam, waiting for their leader   
I got there early enough to have a few casual discussions with media types, and with some of Trudeau's Manitoba MP's. 

They were doing their best, in the toughest re-election spot imaginable with a leader in photographs that seemingly undercut their multi-cultural base, as polling shows a neck-and-neck race with the Conservatives. 

One senior Parliamentary reporter asked an MP "But he wouldn't pass the vetting (now) ...?", and the response was "(shrug) apples and oranges." That question was heard in conversations a few times. I had guessed that about 4 polling points shifted to the NDP after Jagmeet Singh's response to the news and perhaps 2 points parked with the Green Party, and people more experienced than I thought my guess was on the low end.  
MP Danny Vandal fielding a question from Global TV's David Akin
A cluster of journalism students from nearby Red River College were at the 3 o'clock position to the microphone where I set up, and they told me about 100 RRC students were there. By my count, excluding a sizeable media contingent, Liberal politicos and those students, there was maybe 100 'voters' in the assembly, a number so low it shocked veteran newsfolks when we talked it over. There was no gaggle of Trudeaumaniacs there and no rent-a-Liberals. 

Based on the limited applause interruptions, there was perhaps 40 supporters among the crowd. Outside of about 20 First Nations activists giving him the goods upon his departure, no hecklers or protesters showed up. Probably because the leader under the racism microscope isn't named Andrew Scheer. 
The media lined up to quiz the PM after his newest apology. 

Among his notable comments, he reversed his own description from the plane of his past costuming mishaps:  "I appreciate calling it makeup, but it's blackface... I have to recognize that I let a lot of people down with that choice and I stand here today to reflect on that and to ask for forgiveness." Watch it here:

While it served him well to call it what it was and not sugar-coat it,  many of his other responses failed to inspire optimism he had succeeded in quelling the uproar. 

Trudeau couldn't say how many other times he paraded around in blackface: "I am wary of being definitive about this. The recent pictures I had not remembered." That cued that this was not an infrequent party trick, to the dismay of hopeful Libs. 
He framed his lack of awareness of the potential repercussions as a byproduct of his privileged upbringing, which blinded him to the racist overtones his costumed antics might have given off. Why he would throw his parents under the campaign bus, people there could not fathom. Maybe he was blaming his nanny, one half-joked later.

He never said anything about the incidents in any process of Liberal Party vetting - he first entered public life in 2008 - because he was embarassed about them. He could only vaguely connect his realizing that maybe blackface was "a terrible idea" to becoming an MP for the Quebec riding of Papineau. 
- He said he only mentioned it to his team after he became aware Time was looking for the costume party photos. If true, that would mean he knew before June (when they were acquired). 

Asked if his father Pierre knew about his high school costume, he skated around the question before landing on an answer focusing on what the late Prime Minister think about how Justin had apologized. Afterwards, people said they noticed that. 

- Although he mentioned speaking about the photos with his children via Facetime this morning, he made no mention about his wife at all. Afterwards, people said they noticed that omission too.
David Akin landed the hardest question in this video, by pointing out that “The prime minister job was not created so you could work through your issues, maybe its time that you realize you’re not the indispensable man as the leader of the Liberal Party?" - but Trudeau made clear he had never for a mili-second considered stepping away from the helm.

Upon his press attache ending the session, preventing CJOB's Richard Cloutier from getting a question in, Trudeau made his way to his immediate right, going into the crowd seeking somone named Romeo. 

He briefly greeted the man who was seated at a picnic bench, and then worked his way out of the throng shaking hands, and seconds later, there he was, in front of me, looking straight into my eyes, extending his hand. 

 "Hello, it's nice to meet you" the Prime Minister said to me. I shook his hand. "Nice to meet you." 

And with that, Justin Trudeau began to head south towards the exit route,  heckled by aboriginal activists as he left what was surely the toughest day of his political career. 
Quite the kick-off to my federal election coverage, and I will be picking up on the City Hall beat again too

My independant journalism is unique in Central Canada and I rely on reader support to keep this going strong. 

I take on issues that mainstream media won't touch, as I proved in my reporting on the Manitoba election. And I will stay on top of those issues, like discarded needlesconstruction contract corruption, and insufficient candidate disclosures, and make the Pallister government respond to them. 
That's my commitment to the community. 

If you are able to donate to support this platform, please go to this page and see how.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Pallister Wins Second Term; How PC Numbers Have Changed Since 2011

With the return of Premier Brian Pallister to the helm of the province, the progressive left in its various forms fell far short of their hopes on election night in Manitoba, and a realignment is inevitable. 
Since 2011, the Progressive Conservatives have only increased its share of the popular vote by 3.36% to 47.07%, but has distributed votes to almost double the seats held, from 19 to 36. 
The NDP, which ruled the roost that year with 46.16% and 37 seats, have fallen to 31.38 percent of voter support, their seats cut by more than half to 18. Trying to halve that 15 point gap is the next step up the ladder. 
Former Premier Gary Filmon tells about the one that got away
As long as Wab Kinew can only attract 23% or so of voters outside Winnipeg, the NDP will never regain the seat of power. And by 2024, the term "FILMON" will be long put to rest, once and for all, as a dogwhistle to attack conservatives. 

While the Winnipeg Free Press framed the Kinew speech as "Despite election defeat, NDP does victory lap", the victory was over the other left wing opposition parties. The Tories were barely dented by Kinew, with none of the Winnipeg seats grabbed from the PC's qualifying as a total surprise. 

It was no secret backbencher Blair Yakimoski was in a tough fight in Transcona to retain, and in swing seat St. Vital, Jamie Moses was a persisent presence in the riding and decisively avenged his 2016 loss to Colleen Mayer. 

In my view, redistribution made St. James a tough but expected lost seat for the PC's.  If anything, the NDP failure to win the newly created McPhillips constituency in the north end of the city, where the Seven Oaks Hospital is located, was more surprising, as PC MLA Shannon Martin parachuted in and eeked out a return to the Legislature.

The prospects for the other two opposition parties dimmed greatly despite earlier polling which demonstrated the very definition of "parking their vote". After dislodging the volatile Rana Bokhari as Liberal leader, Dougald Lamont didn't move the dial beyond a .08% increase in electoral support in a disappointing result. He, Dr. Jon Gerrard in River Heights, and Cindy Lamoureaux (relocated to Tyndal Park), return to Broadway but the Libs fell short of official Party status.
Premier Pallister assured Audrey Gordon her
slim margin of victory in Southdale didn't bother him
Lamont waffled to the left with scads of climate change pronouncements trying to stem leakage to the Green Party, and made spending promises that even made socialists blush. In the process attracted only 5005 more votes and failed to hold a 4th seat and retain party status. 
The scant economic policy didn't chip into Tory support, and the ground game simply didn't materialize. I suspect the Trudeau government's scandals made even considering a checkmark beside a candidate labeled Liberal a no-go for more than a few voters. 

As for the Manitoba Green Party, support for leader James Beddome in Fort Rouge was tripled by Kinew, and the Party failed to close a 392 vote gap in Wolseley and saw it grow to 917, and out of reach, for David Nickarz. The Green wave is D-O-A here, and in his speech Kinew already promoted that progressive left is spelled N-D-P in this province. It's too bad because voters need more candidates with more new ideas, not less.


Premier Pallister was working the room sharing the thrill of victory around 11 PM and when he noticed me, laughingly remarking how after all these years (we first met in 1993) "we're getting better with age!" 

"Mazel Tov! Hey, I want to get a 30 minute interview with you sometime." Immediately I got the infamous Pallister steely glare. "No." I figured he was joking so I said, "OK, 20 minutes then!"
"No. You, and Bartley Kives," he said. 
Instantly he burst out laughing at the look on my face, reached down, grabbed and shook my hand some more and said "AWWWW I'm just joshing with you, of course we can!"
He conceded after the win that the biggest take-away is that his government needs to do a better job of listening, and I will hold them to that. There are a number of issues that I covered during the election that may not matter to MSM, but do to my audience.

I would ask Premier Pallister about construction contract corruption strangling Manitoba-based trades, and why accountability for the engineering profession has deteriorated under the revised Act to the point they act like a protection racket. And more:

Will he curtail the WRHA continuing to pump out 2 million "harm reduction" needles for meth addicts with no responsibility to deal with the impact of discarded used rigs in the community? What about the meth detox unit proposal of Morberg House that has so much support from politicians of all stripes, including two members of his own caucus?

Will loopholes in the candidate disclosure law (ie Garnishment Orders, and by the way the list is up to 4 NDP'ers now) be closed? 

* And not that it was an election issue, but the antique City of Winnipeg Act is a problem every week at City Hall - if there's changes to come, your voice needs to be heard.

Those are on the kitchen table, so to speak, of my audience.
I'm pitching for your help again: my donor campaign had some good spurts of support but waned towards the end of the campaign. 

If you readers think I have contributed to overall coverage of the 2019 Manitoba election and want me to do more of the same with the Federal Election kicking off, your help to keep the lights and internet on, cover gas and transportation costs. Some wiggle room for adding and upgrading equipment are going to be needed.

My goal is to raise another $1000 - and every donation of $100 or more gets a copy of RETROPEG, a veritable time capsule of black and white photos of the streets and scenes of Winnipeg in the 70's. It's a rare, beautiful book and I have yours.

The stories I was able to produce since the end of June is thanks to the people who donated because they believe in citizen journalism
I do my best every day to maintain their trust and confidence.

Please take a moment to check out this story and see how easy it is to join the donor club to stand with independent reporting.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

MSM Missed Manitoba Meth-election Stories On Crime, Needles, Injection Sites, And Detox

With no public interest broadcaster at work in Manitoba on the provincial election, important and serious aspects underpinning health, economic and safety policy were left to languish on the sidelines of mainstream media story selections
I tried my best to carry the ball and make sure voices raising inconvenient truths in the election were heard. 

Readers donated towards this work and I've been honoured to earn their trust and support. You can join the donors list too.
This column is about four election issues - discarded used needles, meth-induced property and violent crime, safe injection sites, and drug detox and recovery spending priorities - and how the mainstream media completely let the public down by ignoring or under-reporting those stories and not holding politicians to account. 

1) Since last October my main beat has been to uncover critical errors and deficiencies in public health practices that are resulting in over a hundred thousand contaminated used needles dumped unsafely onto streets, boulevards, lanes, parks, and private residences all over Winnipeg already this year. (I focused on Winnipeg but it's a huge problem in Brandon, rural areas and first nations communities as well.)

As the election loomed I reported that the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority had underestimated the number of discarded sharps in Winnipeg by 400%. AT LEAST. And I reported that the year over year increase  from their October 2018 estimate to June of 2012 was 1200%. 

That news got the attention of PC MLA Sarah Guillemard and the Bear Clan on Twitter. who liked and retweeted my comments. I got further comments from Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont and a city councilor chimed in too:
"Mynarski Councilor Ross Eadie, whose north end ward has been noticably afflicted with discarded used needles, reacted to our story exposing that health officials lowballed the estimate of discarded needles in Winnipeg by 400% last year.

With discards estimated to be up 1200% since last year, Eadie cautioned:

 "I definitely believe Street Connections has not handled their program very well over the years on the collection side."

... Dougald Lamont, the Manitoba Liberal leader was critical of both needle and data collection by the WRHA, saying it was "not surprising that the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's estimate of discarded needles was so far from actual numbers," and insisted  that "Manitobans deserve to know the extent of issues within their communities."

Lamont was bang on. The WRHA's "harm reduction" policy and free needle exchange program is based on a 1996 study from goddamn Baltimore - where NO ONE was cranking methamphetamine.
Last October the WRHA claimed:  
"Needle distribution programs have also been shown to reduce the number of discarded needles in the community overall.", citing a study published in the year 2000. 
 In the same email, officials argued:  
"Needle return rates have very little to do with the number of needles found discarded unsafely in the community." 
Can someone explain why needle returns were counted and rates were tracked and bragged about by those same exchange programs in Regina, Saskatoon and other places in the past? 

Oh ya, because when it's at 88%, that's proof users aren't dumping free needles onto playgrounds.
But if it wasn't for me asking politicans questions what they were going to do about used needles endangering the public and the WRHA's failure to monitor, let alone control, the meth epidemic, no one in the media would have asked.  
"Good data is very important for governments to make the right policy choices", Lamont said.  
To be clear - the WRHA uses a 23 year old study to justify a program depositing, by their own admission, up to 41,000 needles of THEIR needles on the street, that doesn't collect proper needle return or discard data, and that doesn't even require ANY needles be brought in or a single question asked before "harm reduction" workers hand out clean needles by the boxload.  

Green Party leader James Beddome and the NDP candidate in St. Boniface Laurissa Sims, concurred with Lamont at a St. B town hall that the WRHA had failed to ensure "harm reduction" for addicts didn't result in harm for law-abiding citizens and for children. That's all 3 opposition parties, criticizing the role of WRHA harm reduction policies leaving used needles on our streets, under the Pallister regime.

You'd think CBC or someone would have picked up on that as an election issue. 


2) I suggested in a column that "If "Crime And Fear" Emerges In The Manitoba Election - It Won't Just Be Campaign Rhetoric" - and I backed it up with the very statistics the Free Press buried in a community tabloid.

"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." 

But the valid crime concerns of the residents and businesses seeking enforcement - not to mention families terrorized by meth-crazed relatives and neighbours - got no traction in the elction campaign. Why? 

For one, because there is no effective voice for crime victims in this city, and none of the opposition parties wanted to be caste in that role. In fact, the NDP platform didn't address crime enforcement at all. 

However, there is an effective and coordinated lobby in support of the WRHA. Those activists have never questioned the harm reduction policy - let alone admit its failures - and makes money off any program expansion. 

So crime issues became secondary to jockeying for public support over spending promises  made about treatment options and health care services, ignoring immediate protection of our community. 
And no one in the media championed their cause.

As for Brian Pallister and the PC's, they talked a good game about hiking policing and enforcement budgets, but no one asked them if they will attach measurable results to the funding, or how they define success.

* The next time an MSM reporter mentions the 92.9% increase in property crime in St. Boniface to an MLA or a Premier and asks what they will do, it will be the first time.  

* If they ask for a comment about the analysis of former cop James Jewell, who dissected a flawed investigation structure under police chief Danny Smyth that amplified the factors behind the 92.9% hike in property crime, it will be the first time

* The next time reporters ask those wanting your vote how they will reform the Intoxicated Persons Act to allow for detention of addicts in a meth psychosis, a prerequisite to expanding ANY drug stabilization or detox unit services, it will also be the first time.

3) Another election train all the opposition parties hopped onto, without question from the media, was the establishment of "safe injection" sites. 

The contrast with the Progressive Conservatives was easy for the media to grasp and portray - conservatives are against letting addicts shoot up in taxpayer-paid spaces (bad policy), and everyone else was agreeing with the "WRHA harm reduction fan club" to open places for users (good policy). 

Well... not quite everybody. With good reasons to boot. But the media wouldn't hear of it, let alone report on it.

But the trio at the St. B town hall heard it, from Marion Willis and the addicts in the residential recovery program at Morberg House. 
She dared them to produce a single study showing a safe injection site was appropriate for meth users. They still haven't. 
Here's the video:

Refuting the NDP 100 day plan to centralize services with the Main Street Project, Marion Willis told the panel, "I'm a better expert what it actually takes to take meth addict from addicted to Morberg House, these outcomes are achieved because it isn't happening on Main Street..."

She went on to dispute their lockstep support for safe injection sites as a viable option to handle the meth crisis: 

"I would challenge you to go and find some current research on methamphetamine use disorder, guess what? IT DOESN'T EXIST... Everybody has adopted the protocols for addressing the opiod crisis ... this is a methamphetamine crisis, and it's a very different beast..."
There isn't enough understanding and I see that clearly ... it's painfully obvious to us that even those within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority making decisions actually don't know enough about it and they're making a lot of assumptions." 
Now god forbid, any media outlets had asked politicians favouring safe injection sites how they would propose handling the increased 
crime those facilities had brought to neighborhoods in Calgary, Edmonton, and Wab Kinew's favorite example, Lethbridge, where a man was stabbed in the face last weekend and where the rooms are booked solid as meth addicts smoke themselves into oblivion in a modern day, taxpayer-funded equivalent of an opium den. 

But can you imagine if just one had reported what Marion Willis, whose program has a 67% success rate, with no funding from the provincial government, told the panel?   

 "'Harm reduction' isn't necessarily a safe injection site when it comes to meth. I beg you to start talking to people who have overcome the addiction, take it from them, they're the true experts sitting here."
Early in the campaign Marion Willis identified a vacated building in the west end that is already designed for exactly what is needed - drug detox and stabilizationIt's actually two buildings, with the modern medical treatment side with secure bed units to the west connected to an old nun's residence converted to an administration and residential treatment building at 800 Adele Avenue at Arlington St. 

She sees it as a potential centre of excellence, with drug treatment and education programs aligned with long term supports for recovery. 

The problem is, that the Pallister government felt an existing lease was too profitable for the landlords and intend to legislate their way out of a 20 year contract between a child-welfare agency and the building owners. The First Nations children in care were relocated (to where, no one seems to want to say) and in the process government officials, committed to paying $36,000 a month in rent for an empty building through the new year, said some negative things about the facility that resulted in a lawsuit over souring potential new renters. Messy messy, and a lot of hard feelings on both sides.

At the St. Boniface town hall, Willis beseeched the candidates to look beyond the legal dispute the government has provoked with the building's owners and take a big step to handle the meth crisis. 

"What this city needs most has been sitting since February empty, locked up, within walking distance of Health Sciences Centre." 

* All 3 candidates agreed their parties would look into it being part of their drug treatment program expansion. 

* Member of Parliament for the riding, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, is very familiar with the success of Morberg House and told us he'd go to bat with Ottawa for funding

Area councilor Cindy Gilroy wrote "I have treatment facilities in my ward and have supported the need for treatment centers so am not opposed." 

So, the MP and councilor are interested in the building being restored to public health care use, as are the leaders of the Liberal Party, Green Party, and a mental health support worker running for the NDP. And guess what?  

Even two of Pallisters' Progresive Conservative candidates - both MLA's seeking to return to the Legislature - agreed that if 800 Adele is already designed to handle drug detox, then it should be considered for a potential new site. 

Watch the response of Jon Reyes, seeking election in the new constituency of Waverley, about using the existing facilty at 800 Adele instead of the PC commitment to spend millions to build a similar 12 bed unit at HSC.

"I think it's very important for us to have these conversations with the stakeholders that have experience who have the experience in terms of these treatment centres ... I am very open-minded when it comes to information that can be brought forward." 

Shannon Martin is the Tory candidate in McPhillips, another MLA relocating to a new electoral division:  

"I think Marty, we have to look at every opportunity to use existing facilities ... we shouldn't be in a position to rule anything out, everything should be on the table."

So, two Party leaders in Manitoba, the area MP who was on the House of Commons Health Committee, the area city councilor, an NDP rep, and two Progressive Conservative MLA's running for re-election - all agree with the concept Marion Willis brought forward this summer, for the province to make use of the drug stabilization unit at 800 Adele instead of taxpayers paying $36,000 a month to keep it empty. 

Dane Bourget, Director of JibStop, told me he could have the detox beds and the residential treatment beds at 800 Adele "filled in 24 hours!" 

That ain't fake news.

PS. A reader pointed out that readers should be pointed at the stories I broke about election laws not requiring candidates, like 3 from the NDP including Wab Kinew, to reveal they failed to pay court-ordered fines and had their paycheques garnisheed at additional taxpayer expense.

And my story about Kinew refusing to be interviewed by two local women political journalists:

Independent journalism like this is how the public interest is protected. 

That's what I have tried to do with my 2019 Manitoba Election Coverage as a one man bureau. 

Regardless of the election results, it would be nice if the mainstream media finally paid attention to these four issues - discarded used needles, meth-induced property and violent crime, safe injection sites, and drug detoxand recovery spending priorities - and asked the next class of MLA's and the next cabinet the kinds of questions I have raised from the angles I have explored, even if it challenges their own views in the newsroom.