Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gord Steeves Tastes Own Foot

Oh Gord, Gord, Gord. Mr Steeves, you have completely blown it.

If you aren't aware of the situation, Gord Steeves, Mayoral Candidate for Winnipeg in the 2014 election has been hit by a bit of controversy caused by his wife's racist remarks on Facebook. No, okay, lets' revise that, let's say EXTREMELY racist remarks. I mean, really, very, very racist. I mean, come on, we are talking terribly racist.

Ouch. No, not just ouch. OUCH! Wow, that's.....mean! Now, as I listen to the Gord Steeves presser (which you can watch right here) happening now, all I can say is, boy oh boy, has Gord Steeves and his wife missed the boat. As he is saying, the comments on Mrs Steeves Facebook was said in a sort of "heat of the moment" sense, after a few incidents where she had been downtown and approached by people looking for money. Apparently she felt scared. Now, I can't take that away from her. I can see how at times it would be scary. I won't deny that. However, the way this post was worded doesn't seem to reflect fear as much as looking down on people, a pure, 100 percent racist rant, targeting a specific group, showing an extreme lack of understanding when it comes to issues facing Natives in Winnipeg. There isn't a sense of fear as much as a sense of disgust, of loathing, and definitely NO understanding of issues that might be leading people to a life on the streets, begging for money.

Now, to Gord Steeves campaign. Here is the issue. No, Mr. Steeves is not responsible for his wife's views. He didn't write them, she did. These are her views. He shouldn't necessarily be punished for them. However, Mr. Steeves policies for dealing with cleaning downtown up and getting rid of drunkeness, etc seems to directly reflect her views...without the racist rant. He wants to add more Police Cadets downtown to deal with these folks, not even seeming to be interested in looking at the roots of the problem. Just sweep out the unwanted people. This is worrying. I'm not saying that attention does not have to be paid to downtown, that there aren't issues that should be addressed. But when a major campaign promise seems to mirror the concerns his wife have (who made a vile, vile racist Facebook post about it), I can't help but feel suspicious. 

What we see here is just one example of an epidemic of racism in Winnipeg. Come on, face it, it's not like this is the first time any of us have heard similar rhetoric from other people. This is pretty common stuff. We all know and can't deny that. She isn't the first to say these things. Given this, here was Gord Steeves opportunity to maybe shine a bit, stand up against racism in Winnipeg and make a statement of solidarity with those that need a leader to help deal with the issue of racism. He blew it. He missed the boat. He defended himself and his wife and seemed to be oblivious or non commital to the idea that racism is a huge problem and that a Mayoral candidate might want to make statements to ensure that he understands the issue of racism and is willing to work with the community to fight it. He didn't. He didn't in the slightest. 

The way he handled the entire issue was just terrible, as far as I am concerned. The revelation of the Facebook comments his wife made happened 5 days ago. For some reason he chose today, Tuesday (August 12th), to address the issue. He set up a news conference, only telling news outlets where it would be an hour before the event. Media showed, he didn't, until several minutes past 1pm. Then, he began the press conference with some very dry and poorly presented information about zoning permits. It was rather bizarre I have to say. Clearly he wasn't looking forward to addressing the issue on everyone's mind and was stalling. Not overly professional and not overly smart. Finally, FINALLY, someone interrupted him and asked him to get to the matter at hand, which Mr. Steeves reluctantly did focusing almost solely on defending his wife and explaining the context (that doesn't really explain some of the worst statements she made about welfare, education and ass's) as opposed to acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is a serious issue.

After the press conference, which had an abrupt end when he had had enough, he walked out and left, not talking to anyone. He clearly does not want to deal with this issue. The problem is, there are many in the community who do, especially those directly affected by racism in Winnipeg. Instead of facing them and standing up for them, he dodged the issue and did everything he could to avoid it. This, ladies and gentlemen is NOT leadership material. 

Now, he loves his wife, which is lovely. I support him on that. I understand that. He wants to stick up for his wife. Fine. BUT, in the process he completely failed to realize the hurt that was caused by her statements and acknowledge the people affected by this type of racism. This was a chance to speak out, to reach out to those affected, to show at least a shred of understanding. Instead, it was just focused on how his wife was a victim and that led to her racist rant. He had a golden opportunity to address a serious issue that we face in this city....and he blew it. Instead, he seemed annoyed and fed up with even having to face any questions regarding the incident. 

We need a mayor who isn't afraid to look at the issue straight in the eye, understand what is happening downtown, why we have the "problems" we do and at least empathize with those his wife completely bashed in her comments. Yes, Lorrie made the comments, but in my view, Gord's lack of willingness to deal with the issue just made himself look bad. He blew an opportunity....squandered it. He showed lack of leadership. He showed lack of understanding. He showed lack of empathy. And he showed just how far away of finding a solution to one of the major issues we face in this city we truly are. Our leaders need to step up and face this problem. Gord Steeves showed he has no interest in doing that. 

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