Archive for May, 2012

Here it is: Raw data for red-light crash locations

- May 27th, 2012

Well, the stats are in and it doesn’t look good for proponents of intersection “safety” cameras. There’s nothing “safe” about these cameras, according to seven years of data — crunched by Manitoba Public Insurance. It shows that of 51 intersections where red-light cameras have been installed (we excluded Charleswood Parkway b/c they have no data for several years), crashes are up a stunning 53% between 2003 and 2010. Wow. That’s incredible. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what the city promised us these cameras would achieve?

I’m reminded of Transportation Minister Steve Ashton’s comments last week about how photo enforcement was all about safety, and if you weren’t in favour of safety, well..

“But either you’re in favour of safety or you’re not.”

Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, May 22, 2012.

Steve, you may want to rethink. Your credibility is on the line.

Here is the raw data:

Safety Camera Location Collisions

New police boards won’t discipline cops

- May 25th, 2012

If anyone believes the new police boards the province is forcing municipalities to adopt this year will create some new type of  oversight body to deal with the behaviour of police officers, they’re sadly mistaken.

Provincial cabinet has set June 1 for the date municipalities will begin to set up police boards to run their police services.

The new boards are part of sweeping changes to the Provincial Police Act, which will be replaced by the Police Services Act.

Many cop critics had been calling for the boards believing — wrongly — that they would act as some kind of civilian watchdog over cops, including the ability to discipline police officers for any type of wrongdoing, perceived or otherwise.

Wrong.

Like most police boards across Canada, the new boards in Manitoba will have no jurisdiction to discipline cops in any way. In fact, the boards will have no powers at all to deal with individual police officers for any reason. The board’s job will be largely big-picture stuff, like setting policy and direction for the police service and controlling budgets. For example, in Winnipeg, the board — which would include some civilian members — would decide things like how community policing should be delivered or whether the WPS should get a second police helicopter.

The only police officers the boards will deal with directly will be the chiefs of police, who they will hire and fire if necessary.

The boards will monitor the performance of the top cop and work together with him or her to develop policing strategies.

But when it comes to complaints against individual cops, nothing will change with the new boards.

If anyone has a complaint against a cop, they would still take it to the professional standards unit within the police force or to the province’s Law Enforcement Review Agency.

Which is the way it should be.

Former PUB chair now PUB consultant

- May 16th, 2012

According to the province’s conflict of interest law, no cabinet minister or senior civil servant is allowed to enter into a contract with — or receive a benefit from — government for a period of one year after leaving office.

The provision is supposed to create a buffer zone between the time politicians or senior civil servants leave office and when they can get back on the taxpayer-funded gravy train.

The only problem is there’s a big “if” in this legislation. “If” cabinet decides to override the act, it can. In other words, with the blessing of Premier Greg Selinger and his cabinet, government or any Crown organization can enter into contracts with whomever they please whenever they want.

And they just did. Cabinet is allowing the Public Utilities Board to enter into a contract with former PUB chairman Graham Lane who just “retired” March 31.

They passed the order-in-council May 9. Lane was considered to be a senior civil servant under the act. But he’s getting a pass.

You see, under Sec. 19.1(1) of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Conflict of Interest Act, it says that “except with the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council (that’s a fancy word for cabinet), no minister or senior public servant shall, for a period of one year following the date on which the minister or senior public servant leaves office, enter into a contract with, or accept a benefit from, the government or a Crown agency.”

And since the Lieutenant Governor in Council has approved this deal, Lane gets to enter into a contract as a consultant with the PUB, even though he just retired less than two months ago.

So he gets to collect his pension and draw more money from taxpayers through the PUB as a consultant.

We don’t know how much he’ll be paid because the order-in-council simply gives the PUB the authority to enter into a contract with him and to set the “terms and conditions of the consulting services to be provided.”

All we know is he’ll be working for the new board chairman.

Isn’t it nice when the law says cabinet can just wave a magic wand whenever it wants, bypass the province’s conflict of interest rules and enter into contracts with whomever they please whenever it suits them?

Kind of makes the act not worth the paper it’s written on.

 

MPI staff shouldn’t get free Jets tickets

- May 9th, 2012

MPI staff who supposedly worked above and beyond the call of duty over the past year got free Winnipeg Jets tickets, paid for by motorists through their insurance premiums.
That’s according to the results of a freedom of information request submitted by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation released Wednesday.
My question is, why on earth should anyone at MPI get free Jets tickets paid for by us just for doing their jobs?
This is not the private sector. MPI is a state-owned monopoly that forces us by law to purchase our car insurance through them — whether we like their product or their lack of consumer choice or not.
Nobody at MPI should be getting any bonuses for processing forced insurance premiums on Manitobans.

car crash portage 2

MPI insurance premiums should be used for insurance claims for crashes like this one, not for staff bonuses.

 

According to the FIPPA response, MPI paid $199,548 to True North Sports and Entertainment for 170 pairs of Jets tickets and to advertise road safety messages at MTS Centre during NHL games.

Some of the tickets — 86 pairs — were given to charity. I’m not sure MPI has a mandate to use our car insurance premiums for charitable donations. But we’ll leave that off the table for now.

Four pairs of tickets were given to MPI bigwigs.

And 80 pairs of tickets were earmarked for MPI staff who “demonstrate commitment and dedication to their work by going the ‘extra mile,’” — among other basic job requirements. What a scam.

If a private sector company wants to purchase tickets through whatever marketing or promotional deals it has with sporting teams and gives tickets to their staff for whatever reason, that’s nobody’s business.
You don’t have to buy their product if you don’t want to.
But Manitobans are forced to buy automobile insurance through MPI and any net revenues derived from that should be used to lower insurance premiums, not give bonuses to MPI staff for doing their jobs.
This is ludicrous.

Meanwhile, Manitoba Lotteries Corp. has also been snared in the ticketgate scandal. According to a separate CTF FIPPA response, MLC received tickets as part of a similar advertising deal. They also used some tickets for senior executives, for Gambling Minister Andrew Swan (who supposedly has since paid for those tickets) and for staff awards. Again, was is a Crown corporation doing rewarding staff with public money for doing their jobs? Any net revenues from gambling proceeds are supposed to be  transfered to the provincial government’s general revenues for spending in areas like health care, education and infrastructure?

It’s wrong.

Senior civil servant should be investigated by commission

- May 1st, 2012

Manitoba’s Opposition Tories should lodge an official complaint with the province’s Civil Service Commission into how a senior bureaucrat in Immigration and Multiculturalism helped organize a political rally at the Manitoba Legislature last month.
Assistant Deputy Minister Ben Rempel sent an e-mail in late April to undisclosed service agencies who receive funding from the government — including Red River College — and encouraged them to skip work and class to attend a political rally inside the legislature to protest federal changes to an immigration service program.
“I would like service agencies especially, to feel free to release staff and clients to attend tomorrow’s session in the gallery of the Legislature, if they choose,” Rempel wrote in an April 18 e-mail.
The rally was presented to the news media as a grass-roots event organized independent of government. In fact, it was organized by Rempel and NDP political staff, who were seen in the legislature directing protesters where to go in the building.
Senior civil servants in the provincial government are mandated to uphold a high level of political neutrality while discharging their duties as non-political staff. They are supposed to do so within a code of conduct under the Civil Service Act.
The Civil Service Commission is charged with, among other things, investigating breaches of that code of conduct to ensure the civil service is not being used as a partisan instrument for any government.
Manitobans have a right to know whether anyone from cabinet, including the premier’s office, or political staff directed Rempel to organize the event. So far, NDP cabinet ministers have refused to answer any questions on the matter when asked directly by opposition members.
This should be investigated