Friday, August 25, 2006

Sam's dynamic duo?

We understand Sam Katz has handpicked one of his key insiders to run the campaign of St. Boniface city councillor Franco Magnifico. Brian Kelcey has apparently been tapped to try and keep Magnifico from, well, being Franco in the civic election race against former St. Boniface city councillor Dan Vandal.

The race for St. B is the one to watch in this year’s municipal election campaign, and some at City Hall view it as Vandal’s to lose.

Vandal's courage to take on Franco was reportedly boosted based on internal polling numbers BBAs have been hearing about coming from sources in both camps, so it’s no surprise to learn that Mayor Sam would send one of his key insiders to try and help do a better job of selling Magnifico to voters in St. Boniface.

Kelcey -- who rubbed shoulders with other Manitobans like Baby Huey in the Mike Harris PC government in Ontario and former Ontario head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation -- will have his hands full, if the (credible) rumour of his involvement is true.

Franco's talent for following Sam's office's orders have clearly made his political survival a priority for the mayor's circle, though the big FM's record at City Hall is nothing to gloat about: the Red Tape Commission (which Franco took the credit for but Kelcey did all the writing and heavy lifting on) was supposed to cut bureaucratic red tape but has, by most accounts, been less than a success; Franco 'secured?' $300,000 in funding for Cercle Moliere's expansion (a case of nepotism best left for another time); and FM announced something about wanting to do something sometime on the Canada Packers site (anything happen there other than the news conference to announce? what did they actually announce?). And that’s about it.

Having said all that, there are signs that if he’s not careful, Vandal could slip up. At a news conference recently to announce his candidacy, Vandal called Magnifico "a hog sniffer", accused him of being "in the Mayor’s pocket", and pointed out (correctly) that Franco was the guy who "ran the strip joint in my neighbourhood".

While it’s true that Magnifico flew to Kansas City last winter to sniff out any odour problems with a barely opened hog plant there, follows every instruction put to him by the Mayor’s office, and did run the St. Boniface Hotel which featured, ahem, exotic dancing (and a school bus right there beside the front door to allow those smokers a nice warm place in the winter to make an end run around the city’s smoking by-law), we recommend that Vandal tone down his rhetoric and let Franco shoot himself in the foot, as he’s so capable of. Let the City Hall reporters (at least those that don’t regularly drink with Katz handler Ryan Craig) point out the foibles of Franco.

Examples? Franco has been quoted as saying that he has pictures of fellow city councillor Gord Steeves with sheep (!) and that councillors "should do more bending over for developers". Indeed.

The fact is Vandal must realize that he’ll win St. B if voters see that they have a choice between the bellicose Magnifico and a proven guy like Vandal, not between two lugs just slinging mud at each other. Vandal can only lose his credibility and a good reputation by getting into a war of insults with Magnifico.

One more thing: perhaps it’s fitting if Brian Kelcey is running Magnifico's campaign. Here’s a snippet from a piece Free Press reporter Patti Edgar wrote on October 12, 2005:

"Of 287 (municipal) candidates since 1990, 87 didn't file audited financial statements or didn't do it properly. One is Brian Kelcey, whose current title is special adviser to the mayor's office. He works full-time with the mayor's executive policy committee.

"Kelcey, the author of the much-touted report on city hall red tape, ran unsuccessfully for St. Charles councillor in 1995. Katz's chief of staff, Ryan Craig, was Kelcey's official agent, charged under the bylaw with keeping campaign records and preparing an audited statement. (Agents aren't responsible for filing the document.)
"In August, Katz called it "sad and pathetic" that any candidate for city government would fail to follow simple city election bylaws. Yesterday the mayor said he was unaware of Kelcey's past bid for a council seat."

A law breaker and the owner of a sleazy strip joint: seems like they deserve each other. The people of St. Boniface ward, though, sure don't.