Saturday 29 December 2012

Year end fluff with the Premier

The Winnipeg Free Press has published a year-end interview (of sorts) with the Premier Greg Selinger.

It hasn't been a stellar year for the Premier. Among the more problematic developments of the year: serious systemic problems with Manitoba's child welfare safety net have come to light as a result of the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, Hydro's multi-billion dollar expansion plans have come under increasing scrutiny, and the government was forced to admit that it lied to Manitobans before the last election about balancing it's books by 2014-15 (although they don't take any responsibility for it, but rather blame the "fitful and uncertain" global economy).

With all these serious problems, the year-end conversation ought to be an interesting and provocative one. Unfortunately it was the exact opposite. Free Press reporter Larry Kusch doesn't even lead off with any of these issues, but rather allows the Premier to throw Winnipeg Jets pixie dust in our faces to obscure everything else.

He's beginning to beat the drum for a hockey extravaganza that would see the Winnipeg Jets suit up for a regular-season contest against the Minnesota Wild -- at the 33,422-seat Investors Group Field. 

Selinger said the prospect of an outdoor Winter Classic-style event would generate a lot of excitement for local hockey fans who have been down in the dumps because of the lockout.

"I think it would be a lot of fun," said Selinger
This fantasy of Greg's is the headliner for this interview, which proclaims in bold 40-point font in the Saturday paper that "Selinger's GOT GAME".


I don't even know where to go with this. Selinger has no control over whether this game ever happens. It has nothing to do with 2012 and certainly will not happen in 2013, if ever. It has no relevance to anything. Let me make this clear by pressing my Caps Lock key: THE ONLY PURPOSE OF THIS WINNIPEG JETS NON-SEQUITUR IS TO DIVERT ATTENTION FROM THE IMPORTANT ISSUES.

Nothing is more popular than the Winnipeg Jets, and everybody is pumped about the new stadium. Put those two things together and you've got magic! With that combination, maybe you can even turn a negative story about a province where everything is going wrong into a warm and fuzzy feel good piece!

When Larry gets around to covering the actual issues, he does not pose direct questions to challenge the Premier, but instead sets up topics and allows the Premier to deliver the message that he wants to deliver. For example -- and I didn't know this until today -- but one of the main reasons for the hundreds of millions of dollars of deficit spending is to save children. "If a child needs to be protected, that has to be done." Ergo, if we were to balance the budget children would die.

The story also includes a sidebar with frivolous little questions about Taylor Swift and stuff like that. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact this is exactly where Greg Selinger's idea about the Winnipeg Jets winter classic belongs -- in the side bar, not the head line.

Friday 21 December 2012


It's tricky: mobilizing masses of people while presenting a consistent message and without causing disruption that could hurt your cause.

The growing Idle No More movement, a product of building frustration among First Nations peoples, is attempting to navigate those conundrums as it executes something resembling a controlled explosion on the national scene. The match that ignited this movement was Bill C 45, the Federal Government's omnibus budget bill that alters parts of the Indian Act and reduces protections for many Canadian waterways. This, along with other recent government legislation, didn't sit well with some native Canadians:

"These colonial forms of legislation that the government expects to unilaterally impose on us has brought us together, to stand together" - Jessica Gordon

They decided that enough was enough and it was time to mobilize.

But how? Just the term "omnibus budget bill" is enough to make people fall asleep. By writing that in this blog post I instantly lost 35 readers. How do you draw people's attention to something like that?

After the initial National Day of Action failed to garner much press; Rallies, flash mobs, hunger strikes and blockades continued to spring up across the nation and the media is taking notice.

With the spot light comes the challenges:

1) a cohesive message: As the Occupy movement grew, different factions in different cities had different objectives, and the message got watered down until most people saw the occupiers as nothing more than a bunch of illegal campers with too much time on their hands.

Idle No More has to maintain a consistent message. Is it a protest against bill C 45, is it about Attawapiskat, or is it a more general thing about indigenous sovereignty and an equal partnership with the Government of Canada, or is it something else? We can see on the news that there are protests, but we don't get a lot of insight into what it's about. They have to keep hammering home their intended message so that it filters through the 120 second news segments on TV and into the skulls of nimrods like me who wait to get fed what they need to know by the mainstream media.

The danger is that different aboriginal leaders will say different things, thus confusing the public and muddling the message. Worse, some may decide to capatalize on the "Idle No More" name recognition to promote their own causes. This will lead Idle down the Occupy path to oblivion, leaving the honest protesters as nothing more than angry Indians marching against who-knows-what in the eyes of many. This is to be avoided.

Already, though, it's happening: today in Winnipeg the Sagkeeng First Nation organized a rally at the Manitoba Hydro building to draw attention to the continued displacement of people in their community by last year's flooding. This is counter-productive. It may be a worthy topic, but it comes at the expense of the Idle movement.

2) keeping the public on your side: It may be tempting to cause disruption because a blockade or other such thing is very effective at getting people's attention, but this too should be avoided. Not all attention is good attention. Sympathy and support for your cause will quickly vanish if you piss people off.

There was a separate event at the Winnipeg airport today that partially blocked traffic. As somebody who recently missed a flight, I can tell you that people who are rushing to catch a plane are not going to be very receptive to anything that gets in their way. Apparently this was not an *official* Idle event, but only in support of it. Most people will not make that distinction. If you want to show support for Idle No More, why don't you show up at an actual Idle No More event instead?

3) supress the lunatics: All public statements by a corporation are tightly controlled by a dedicated PR department. The First Nations do not have such a luxury. There is a Grand Chief, and there are provincial representatives that have a voice, and there are also hundreds of band Chiefs across the country, as well as many other activists and voices. Naturally some are more intelligent than others.

While we have heard some very thoughtful statements from people like Pamela Palmater and Winnipg's own youthful activist phenom Michael Redhead Champage, we also have this guy in the car:

“ We ARE the representative! We ARE the example for the world!”

For this to be successful, people need to hear the reasonable and rational voices, and not that guy in the car or, God forbid, a grand standing buffoon like Terry Nelson.

Alas, I fear these challenges may be too great. The Canadian First Nations are too diverse and loosely knit. It is unlikely that the message can be controlled in the way that it needs to be, and the movement may be undermined by the selfish or misguided acts of those who try to grab the spot light with their own independent protests in the name of Idle No More.

Recommended reading:

Sunday 9 December 2012

Auction Mart: Internet clearance bin

Every year Global Winnipeg holds an internet auction through Auction Mart. You can bid on goods and services and hopefully get something you want at less than what you would normally pay for it.

Last April I bought an electric fireplace from a local furniture store. It came packed in re-used bubblewrap and copious amounts of packing tape. I know the wrap was re-used because it had labels on it for living room furniture.

When I finally got around to unwrapping it I found some damage to the finish on the top. Not great, but oh well ... I guess we got a good deal on it, as long as it heats up the rec room ...

So I plugged it in and ... okay ... now what? I presume there is some way to turn this thing on but there's no remote control. After a short search I found three toggle switches tucked away in a corner of the unit, but after trying them in every combination at least 3 times nothing happened. Well, okay, maybe I should check the manual.

There is no manual.

So I copied down some numbers from the back of the fireplace and looked up the fireplace on the internet and eventually found a pdf version of the manual on the manufacturer's website. "The unit is operated with the ON and OFF buttons on the remote control." Yes, well ... I don't have a remote.

So I emailed the manufacturer with the model number and explained my problem..
The fireplace that we purchased will not start up. There is power going to the unit, but the unit shows no signs of life when turned on. I have tried all combinations of the control buttons. Does this model come with a remote control?

"The manual switch needs to be in the II position in order to use the supplied remote and in the I position if you use the manual switches on the insert.."

The fireplace did not come with a remote, and the switch on the right does not have a 'II' Position. It has only 'I' and 'O'. Is this model supposed to have a remote?

"Yes this model should come with an on/off functioning remote only. Where did you purchase this model and what is the serial number off the sticker on the rear that tells me when it was manufactured."

I provided the info but heard nothing back. So, I contacted the furniture store in an ornery mood and threatened to return it, but apparently because I bought it through Auction Mart it could not be returned. When you buy through the auction you buy it as is, except you can't see how it is when you buy it.

To the store's credit, they did send away for a remote control for me. I drove down and picked up the remote, which also came with a different power adapter. Alright ... well maybe I can get this thing running now.

I plugged the new adapter in and pressed ON and ... we have a humming sound! We have heat! But ... there is no light. Isn't there supposed to be some kind of flame effect or something?

So the next step is to check the light bulbs. After reading how to change the light bulbs in my pdf manual on the computer, I pulled the thing apart and found this:

These aren't ordinary burnt out light bulbs, but like .. exploded bulbs or something. What the hell happened to this thing. Did it get hit by lightning?

Anyhow, I replaced the bulbs and FINALLY it's fully functional. For how long who knows, but for now it's working, and doesn't even look that bad as long as you don't look too closely.
Still, this cost me far too much time and effort, and wasn't much of a deal all things considered. My advice to you is to beware: you can get good deals on on-line auctions like Auction Mart, but some retailers simply use them as a clearance bin for crap they can't otherwise sell.

Monday 3 December 2012

The Great Canadian Lawsuit

There once was a humble man in a humble city who had a humble radio show called THE GREAT CANADIAN TALK SHOW. The man's name was Marty.

One day Marty walked into the studio and found that his show was gone. Marty was sad.

And angry.

Mostly angry.

You see, Marty worked very hard on his show. He was very happy with the show, and he had big plans for the show. And then one day, some bad people took it away.


6 years ago, Marty Gold came to an agreement with 92.9 Kick FM station manager Rick Baverstock to host a radio show on Kick FM. The campus radio station needed to fill it's CRTC-mandated quota of talk content. Marty agreed to do that and to provide training for Red River College students, and in exchange he would be allowed to sell advertising to earn a living. It would also give Marty an outlet to speak out on community issues. This being a community radio station, it seemed like a perfect fit.

In the 3 1/2 years that the show ran, Marty built up enough of an advertising base to not only earn a living, but to contribute funds back to the station. Over those 3 1/2 years he also ruffled many feathers with his blunt and direct criticisms of the civic and provincial governments, and mainstream media outlets, most specifically the Winnipeg Free Press.

There were also several people on the Kick FM board who were not happy with Marty because he was actually selling advertising.You see, while the CRTC mandates that campus radio stations maintain community-run boards, Kick FM had industry execs on it's board. Some of the people controlling the station had an interest in the station not selling advertising because in theory that meant fewer potential advertisers for their own stations. This reluctance to sell advertising resulted in a $180,000 debt that resulted in (or was used as an excuse for -- depending who you talk to) the ultimate demise of the radio station.

Moreover, because Red River College depended on other media outlets to hire it's Creative Communications (Creecom) program grads to ensure it's success, the executives of the college had a vested interest in not pissing them off by competing with them for advertising. It's even been suggested that the power to the radio transmitter was deliberately dialed down to prevent the station from reaching across the city so that potential advertisers would be deterred.


The hammer finally came down and on November 8, 2010 Marty lost his show. Two years later he's fighting back with a law suit.

Who's being sued and why?

The defendants are
Red River College
Crecomm Radio Inc.
FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership (The Winnipeg Free Press)
Margo Goodhand - former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press
Stephanie Forsyth - President of Red River College
Cathy Rushton - Vice-President of Red River College
Graham Thomson - Dean of Business at Red River College
Robert Buisson - Legal Council for Red River College
David Wiebe - Kick FM board member & VP of Golden West Radio
Chris Stevens - Kick FM board member & former VP/GM of CHUM radio

Red River College, along with employees Stephanie Forsyth, Cathy Rushton, Graham Thomson, and Robert Buisson, are being sued for wrongfully terminating his agreement with RRC.

David Wiebe and Chris Stevens are also being sued for helping to orchestrate the termination of the contract as directors of Creecom and Kick FM board members. The statement of claim asserts that both were motivated by personal gain, as executives of competing stations.

The Free Press and Margo Goodhand are being sued because emails that Margo sent to Stephanie Forsyth "maliciously induced" Forsyth to "wrongfully and maliciously" conspire with her RRC co-defendants to terminate the agreement with Marty. It should be noted that the termination occurred immediately after said emails. Emails like this and this.

According to the statement of claim, the "wrongful" and "malicious" acts include:
  • falsifying complaints about the defendant (Marty)
  • failing to follow the established and known complaint process
  • failing to consult with the board of directors, and lying about doing so
  • other various falsifications and lies.
The document also suggests that getting rid of The Great Canadian Talk Show opened the door for Chris Stevens, Margo Goodhand and the Winnipeg Free Press to start their own talk show in the same time slot. It also points out that shortly afterwards Margo Goodhand, the Winnipeg Free Press and Stephanie Forsyth partnered to create a program at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café to train community journalists, not unlike what TGCTS did, leading to a $400,000 grant.

How much is Marty suing for?

Marty will not tell me, but it's safe to assume it's in the six-figure range because Marty potentially lost $100,000 or more in advertising revenue in the ensuing two years, plus he's also asking for punitive damages and costs.

In suing for damages, Marty can argue that advertising revenues were on an upward trajectory. But there is more: Marty had intended to leverage his show's relative success locally to build a nationally syndicated radio show at college stations across the country. He had it planned out, but the untimely demise of his show scuttled those plans. This represents a loss of opportunity that Marty will present in his argument for damages. I do not know how successful this angle will be because it's hard to prove loss for something that you never had, but I'm not a lawyer so who knows...

Does he have a chance of winning?

One thing you should know about Marty: he's tenacious. If Margo and Stephanie thought he would cause a fuss and then go away they were mistaken. I doubt that a day has gone by since the termination that Marty hasn't vowed revenge for the wrong that was committed against him, and he may never let it go until he finds justice. Hello. My name is Marty Gold. You killed my talk show. Prepare to die.

Marty is also diligent. Some people with his passion might have launched a lawsuit immediately after getting terminated, but Mr. Boroditsky has taken his time. He's spent the last two years compiling evidence, filing FIPPAs, snooping for emails, building his case. He has accumulated a mountain of paperwork and thought through every angle. That is why the defendants have cause to worry. He is prepared.

He also has a decent lawyer. Gene Zazelenchuk is probably best known for representing Crystal Taman's husband Robert and her family in a law suit following a botched investigation into the accident that lead to Crystal's death. That law suit, which also involved multiple defendants, resulting in a $300,000 settlement for the family of Crystal Taman.

What will the Defense argue?

Well we can't say for sure, but you know they will argue that Marty Gold was exposing the Creecom students to poor journalistic practices.

"As far as we know he has no journalism training"
"If they're learning anything from Mr.Gold's show, it's that they can be relentlessly hostile and accusatory without evidence."

They'll say his defamatory rants escalated to the point where they had to take him off the air. What Gold calls "libel chill" -- Margo's references to consulting her lawyer about defamatory statements in her letters to Forsyth -- could be considered fair warning that the show has crossed the line. This may come down to a debate about whether Marty's show actually did cross the line. The defense may try to show that Marty did in fact defame the Free Press or its journalists.


What's next? The defendants have been contacted. Marty and his lawyer are now waiting for their responses.The time frame in which this may get resolved is uncertain but I expect most of this to play out over the course of 2013.

Marty mentioned that he may set up a dedicated web site related to the law suit and to help raise money for associated expenses. He already accepts donations on his regular TGCTS blog.

Whether you were a fan of Marty or not, this may be worth paying attention to. As this lawsuit proceeds some dirt involving some big names could get kicked up, and it may raise serious concerns about the leadership of Manitoba's premier community college. The Great Canadian Talk Show is gone, but this show is just beginning.

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