Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"I'm not a politician"

For a guy who is not a politician, he sure has been acting like one. Today, he said on CBC exactly what he said he wouldn't do and pulled a Bloomberg. How quickly things have changed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year Ender

At the end of each year, politicians do what is called the year end interview. They are one-on-one interviews that focus on the year that was as well as issues for the upcoming year. Pretty much everything is fair game which can make it tricky for some politicians. Knowing how to handle this type of interview can be the difference between this headline “Still plenty of work to do for Doer” and this one “Mayor weathers toughest year”.

PR 101
This week, we’ve seen a perfect example of a master at work (Doer) and a PR train wreck (Katz). Both are Free Press interviews. Sammy, please take notes there will be a test at the end.

Four examples of do's and don'ts:
1. The opening question (Katz):

Free Press: I'll start with a softball. What do you consider your biggest achievement this year?

Mayor Sam Katz: Stage 1 of rapid transit, I consider very positive. The fact the (Canadian) Museum of Human Rights will finally be starting up. A state-of- the-art indoor soccer facility... and also some of the projects we've brought to fruition for our recreational facilities. And I guess one of the big ones is the initiatives we brought forward under urban aboriginal strategies for youth.

First question (Doer):

Q: First off, one of the big issues hanging over your head is the vote tax.

A: Well, it really isn't hanging over from last year because I didn't bring it in until the spring, but the big issues last year were, were we going to get our population up to 1.2 million? And we did that. And the other big issue that we said we would want to achieve this year is going ahead with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. That was my year-end interview last year. Both those items we were able to achieve.

I think looking at going ahead, we have concerns we raised about maintaining the integrity of banning union and corporate donations for funding of political parties. We also have the issue of unfettered partisan mailing being paid for by the taxpayers, which we would argue is equally accountable for political parties, and then the issue of a portion of partial public funding for political parties. So we said everything is on the table.

Sammy you got a softball question to start. Pretty hard to screw this one up. Doer, you on the other hand got a loaded question. You managed to get some positives in your answer but you also answered the initial question without sounding defensive. Good job both of you. Extra points for you Gary.

2. Answering a loaded question (Katz):

FP: What would you consider your biggest failure this year?

Katz: Off the top of my head, I can't think of a specific failure, per se. If there's one that you have in mind, please let me know.

FP: You had to change what you wanted to do with Upper Fort Garry.

Katz: I didn't change what I wanted to do with Upper Fort Garry. I wanted to make sure these people had a real plan. I didn't have any plan for Upper Fort Garry. The city had already approved a needed apartment complex there, which I think is terrific. This other scenario came forward and for all intents and purposes, all I did was basically broker a deal between the developer and the Friends of Upper Fort Garry.

Answering a loaded question (Doer) see question 1.

Sam, this question isn’t that difficult to answer. Next time try something like “There have been some challenges this year as we have been faced with an economic downturn but despite this we’ve managed to accomplish a lot”. It’s called turning a negative question into a positive. Sure, you aren’t really answering the question but you don’t really have to. See Doer was able to do this. And Sam, next time please don’t give the reporter the opportunity to frame your answer and name your failures.

3. Conflict of interest (Katz):

FP: Do you think the Riverside Park Management issue changed Winnipeggers' opinions of you?

Katz: No, I don't think that issue did. I think the way the media might have represented it did, but as you know, I can't control that. If (only) everybody had just looked at the facts and if the media had reported the facts (of) what this issue was all about, which was an improper assessment. Even the department came forward and said that.

But as you know, it's nice to get headlines. That wasn't the way it was written. That wasn't the way the majority of people really got the impression. But if you looked at the facts, this was a real simple scenario, and it should have been that way.

FP: With all due respect, when I moved beyond the assessment issue and tried to talk about the relationship (of) the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Riverside Park, you didn't want to talk about it.

Katz: As I've said before, there is no (relationship). When you're talking about one entity versus another, we all know, quite often, you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and that's exactly what I believe happened there. I also believe there were innuendoes made which were totally inaccurate, yours included, where you implied that directors of Riverside were getting paid, which was absolutely untrue as well.

FP: I didn't imply that.

Katz: The way people read it, that's what they interpreted from the story that was written, even though they had been on the record before saying there was no truth to that. But you know, another story, another year. Who knows what next year will bring.

Conflict of interest (Doer):

Q: The big rumour is that you're going to become the head guy at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

A: No, that would be a conflict of interest. There was a rumour. I'm funding the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I'm advocating for funding. I've always respected the fact this is great for Manitoba. It is a federal cultural institution. It's not private like it was before.

Sam, you’ve made many fatal errors here. You attacked the reporter’s credibility, you sounded negative and defensive. Sam, getting into a fight with a reporter is not a good idea. Doer, you on the other hand acknowledged the issue and simply answered the question.

4. Ending the interview (Katz):

FP: Is there anything else you would change about this year?

Katz: I just wish, at some point in time, councillors would show a little more integrity or credibility on the floor of council. I can't tell you the number of issues where I've received criticism, whether it's a Coun. Gerbasi or Thomas or Vandal, and what they're criticizing is exactly something they did a few years ago, the exact same way. It's like every time we try to do something, there's criticism, no matter what we do.

I'd like to see councillors do the right thing. And in my opinion, these people are not doing the right thing. They're hypocrites. They're not telling the truth.

FP: I was trying to end this on the warm and fuzzy.

Katz: That was warm and fuzzy.

Ending the interview (Doer):

Q: There are a lot of big projects coming up in 2009. In your mind, what's the most important?

A: A lot of the projects are going to be small, under-the-radar projects. A lot of what we're going to do is just sit down with businesses that are successful that are not going to fail and try to work out business plans with shortening credit if we can to try to make a difference. I'm spending a lot of time and our government is spending a lot of time with small companies, medium-sized companies and big companies that have a shortage of credit from banks. They're going to do well. We're not going to put money into companies that won't do well. That in itself is tough because those are real people, real families and real communities, but most of what we're going to do is the stuff that's not going to be on the front page of the paper.

Sammy, you were asked an open ended question; that’s a politician’s dream, run with it. You could have taken this a number of different places and talked about some of the positive things going on at Silly Hall. Instead you used this to attack other council members; calling them hypocrites and liars. Sam…please listen…this is important. Voters don’t want to hear you bitch and moan about how the other kids don’t play nice with you in the sandbox. It’s the holiday season, we want nice thoughts, we want to feel good and warm. Now repeat after me. Hypocrite is not a good word for a story that will run at Christmas. Now go write it down 10 times on the black board. Doer, you can go for recess.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


You’re an opposition finance critic and you learn that the province is projecting to run a $350 million surplus (if you include hydro and the other crowns) and the economy expected to grow by 2.1 per cent compared to 0.7 nationally during an economic crisis. What would your response be?

“This only reflects the first half the year. The bad six months of the year have not been reported” said Borotsik in the Freep.

Thank you captain obvious. It’s the second quarter report. Most of the second part of the year (fiscal) hasn’t happened yet. You can’t report on what hasn’t happened yet.

And when it does happen, the province will still run a surplus. Again.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lets get ready to rumble

I love boundary changes as they always leave the politicos scrambling. For example after the boundary redistribution in 1998, the Broadway riding held by NDP Conrad Santos was dissolved. He immediately went after the nomination in Wellington which was help by dipper Becky Barrett. Instead of facing Santos, Barrett faced Liberal Kevin Lamoureux in Inkster with the promise of a seat at Cabinet if she was successful. It worked out for the NDP as both Santos and Barrett were victorious.

There will likely be some interesting jockeying with this most recent redistribution.

1) NDP Ron Lemieux: He is the current Infrastructure and Transportation Minister and MLA in La Verendrye. La Verendry has been split in two with the eastern portion being called Dawson Trail. Lemieux will definitely go after the nomination in Dawson Trail which includes his home town of Lorette and the NDP hot spot of Ste. Anne (which wasn't in the proposed riding when the changes were first proposed). The remaining eastern part of La Verendrye is yellow dog country and should be easy pickings for the Tories.

2) Tory Leanne Rowat What happens when the constituency of Minnedosa disappears? Rowat will be looking for a seat. This could include a run at Brandon East or against Len Derkach (who according to the Brandon Sun has suffered a heart attack). She's very capable so I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her yet.

3) Liberal Kevin Lamoureux: Lamoureux is no stranger to these types of challenges. The way I see it he has two options here. He could face NDP newcomer Mohinder Saran in the expanded constituency of the Maples which now takes up a portion of Kevin’s old Inkster riding. Or he could challenge the yet to be named NDP candidate in the newly formed constituency of Tyndall Park which also takes a portion of his old Inkster constituency. In the Maples you take on a NDP MLA in a constituency with a large East Indian population or Tyndall Park where you take on the NDP in a part of the city that traditionally has voted orange. Your guess is as good as mine but I’m sure the NDP would love to knock off Lamoureux.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Conservatives say the darndest things

These are old quotes from Hansard but I just came across them again. I’m sure the Libs and Dippers have said some pretty dumb things too but for now here are few from the Tories.

Ron Schuler “You know, they always get prettier at closing time." Sorry what was that Ron? This kind of talk might go over well in the locker room but not something you want to say in the legislature.

Here’s one from last year in Question Period no less. I will admit that I haven’t been in Tuxedo in a while but as far as I can remember beavers weren’t such a big issue. The beaver deceiver thing is kinda funny but not in question period. With questions like that, it’s no wonder she took a pretty big hit in the 2007 election.

Beaver Population Control Program

Mrs. Heather Stefanson (Tuxedo): Mr. Speaker, in July of this year the Minister of Conservation announced further initiatives to deal with the problem beavers in Manitoba. While I applaud the NDP for carrying on a program initiated by the previous Progressive Conservative government, I was shocked to learn that the method by which the NDP government chose to achieve this goal was through a program known as the Beaver Deceiver program.

Mr. Speaker, is it not enough that the NDP has chosen for eight years to deceive the people of Manitoba that they now have to stoop so low as to deceive the beaver population as well?

Hon. Stan Struthers (Minister of Conservation): I can't help but think a trap has been set for me to step in, but what the heck, Mr. Speaker. This is the same population of beavers that's deceived this government on the other side for how many years?

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious problem in rural Manitoba. This problem causes us millions of dollars in damage every year in Manitoba, every year to our infrastructure. We need to be working with the R.M.s of the area which we're doing, trying to think of ways–

Mrs. Stefanson: Mr. Speaker, as hard as they've tried to deceive even the beavers of Manitoba, even the beavers have outsmarted them. Manitoba beavers have a right to know how many of their relatives have been deceived as a result of this government's Beaver Deceiver program?

Mr. Struthers: It's good to see that my colleague from Tuxedo has finally found an issue she can sink her teeth into.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Last, Late and Fading

Manitoba's so called Information Superstation CJOB News won't be filling its two reporter positions for the foreseeable future in an attempt to save Corus some money. This is Manitoba's most listened to news and talk radio station with ZERO reporters. Zip, nada, Zilch...ok you get the picture. How can you deliver accurate news with no reporters? Live, local, first....try last, late and fading.

Friday, December 19, 2008

This story again...

In today’s Sun, Ross Romaniuk recycles an old non-story about how Winnipeg is too cold for some French Canadians to visit the Canadian Human Rights Museum. The exact same story appeared in the Free Press (and probably in the Sun) in August 2008. The Sun is already recycling stories now, just imagine how bad their coverage will get when they lose three more reporters?

Museum not so big a draw?
Promotional challenge: Asper
Last Updated: 19th December 2008, 1:06am

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights may not be quite the tourist drawing card officials say it will, according to a recently released government report.

During a 10-day period last winter in 13 cities across the country, the federal Canadian Heritage Department contracted a polling firm to bring together more than 200 people from demographics viewed as most likely to visit the museum to gauge their thoughts.

The report states francophones who participated see Winnipeg's image as that of "cold, nothing to do, far away, and not interesting to visit," and that "very few" of them appear to want to travel to see the museum.

We're too cold for rights museum
Winnipeg Free Press
Friday, August 8, 2008
Byline: Mia Rabson

OTTAWA -- Winnipeg is too cold and too boring a place for French Canadians or visible minorities from Montreal to consider putting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights into their travel plans.

So said focus groups which were held last winter to ask Canadians their thoughts on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

According to the summary of the focus groups, the location of the museum in Winnipeg was seen "in a negative manner" by French-speaking focus groups in Moncton, Quebec City and Montreal, as well as the visible minority focus group held in Montreal.

"These participants suggested that the city suffers from negative stereotypes such as: cold, nothing to do, far away, and not interesting to visit," says the summary. "Very few of these participants would put the museum on their list of things to see given the distance."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bye, Bye Winnipeg Sun

600 layoffs at Sun media across Canada. Looks like 3 Winnipeg reporters will get the boot. That leaves the already over stretched newsroom with 5 reporters. How can you have decent local coverage with 5 reporters? Thank God Brodbeck is staying put (read sarcasm here)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where did they go?

In the last few months, a few media types seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. I asked around to find out where they’ve been hiding.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, CJOB’s capable tandem of Jeff Keele and Colleen Brady has left the AM radio circuit to join Global and City TV respectively. This just in Vic Grant has still not retired.

We haven’t seen Mike Brown’s zany and usually inaccurate reporting at Global as he is now doing some web work at CTV.

Global’s weather girl extraordinaire Stephanie Armstrong has gone west as has bad boy CTV reporter Kevin Armstrong. I’m not getting into details of this one.

Globe and Mail nice guy reporter Joe Friesen has flown the coup and landed in Toronto as has tax-cutting-guru and anti-everything-quote-machine Adrienne Batra.

Rochelle Squires formerly of the Winnipeg Sun and current Free Press blogger had been doing some PR at Springs Church. However, I now hear she’ll be doing some work for Hughie Mc-sweater-boy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reporters need a raise

Yeah that’s right they do. If you look at how much they make, some of them can hardly make a living.

At the bottom of the scale we have CJOB and City TV. Starting wages are the low 20’s and they top out at $30,000. It’s not surprising that CJOB can’t hold onto their reporters for more than a year. They just lost two good reporters this month in Jeff Keele, who bolted to Global and Colleen Brady who is now at City. Sure they get to drive the CJOB cruiser for free but that’s not going to cut it. Most City reporters left when the evening news was cancelled but the remaining few continue to barely make more than minimum wage.

In the middle group we have Global and the Sun. Anchors at Global and Brodbeck might be doing alright but reporters working at these outlets will only get about $30,000-$40,000.

Even the high rollers at CBC, CTV and the Freep don’t do great. At the mother corp, you are on contract for years before you can get anything permanent. Sure the Freep reporters got a raise but they still aren’t making a great wage for what they do.

The problem here is that there is such a low demand for reporters and Red River keeps churning them out by the hundreds. Supply and demand I guess.

Totally Useless Information

Many of us view politics as a sport but some of these guys have done pretty good for themselves in the sporting world. Here’s a few.

NDP Cabinet Minister Ron Lemieux was drafted by the Pittsburg Penguins in the ninth round, 110th overall. Darryl Sittler, Gilbert Perrault and Reggie Leach were also drafted that year…not too shabby company. He never made the NHL but he played for the Green Bay Bobcats and had seven goals and eighteen assists in 39 games and 54 penalty minutes.

City Councillor Gord Steeves (DB) was captain of the Bison’s and was drafted 30th overall (4th round) by the Edmonton Eskimos.

City Councillor Dan Vandal was a boxer and in 1983 was the #1 ranked middleweight in Canada.

NDP backbencher Rob Altemeyer played college baseball for two years in North Dakota. He can now be seen on the ultimate field.

We also have some runners:
Half marathon: Rob Altemeyer 1:41, Andrew Swan 1:47, Kerri Irvin-Ross 2:53. Full marathon: Scott Smith 3:54, Sam Katz 4:36. I think Sam needed new knees after that race but good for him for finishing.

Did I miss anyone????

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rating Manitoba Politicians

I thought I would start us off by rating various Manitoba politicians of all levels of government. Here's the good, the bad and the ugly...according to me.

1. Greg Selinger A
He's honest, intelligent and the second hardest working guy at the legislature (after Gary Doer). He's good with policy and quick on his feet in scrums and in question period. There's good reason his boss gives him all the tough files ie Crocus and is respected by media and his colleagues. I'd like to see him run for Premier but I just don't think it's in the cards. Mayor Selinger....that's a possibility.

2. Sam Katz D -
Can anyone think of anything he has done. Anyone??? I didn't think so. He comes off defensive in the media and has been invisible most of his tenure. So much promise but so little results.

3. Hugh McFadyen C -
He's young and telegenic but continues to make rookie mistakes. He's not the most shall we say "trustworthy" of guys or so the rumours go and if I was advising him, I wouldn't go with those commercials portraying him as a family man in the next election (like he did in the previous one). Might come back to bite him.

4. Steve Ashton C -
We all know he wants to be Premier but it's never going to happen. The only reason he's in Cabinet is that Doer keeps his enemies close. And where is he in the summer? Greece is a beautiful place but so is Thompson. I've never seen I guy be able to keep going in the house with so much vigour. He's got that going for him.

5. Justin Swandel C
Cheers!! Other than that, I don't know too much about him.

I should really rate an MP but I'm running out of steam already and it's my first blog. Until I blog again....maybe.