Monday, 11 August 2014

Gord Steeves' Abysmal Political Crisis Management Strategy

Who would have thought that a candidate's spouses' Facebook page would launch one of the most talked about moments of the young Winnipeg mayoral campaign ? 

By now, most people know about Lorrie Steeves' "shut the fuck up" to all those native homeless people that harass(ed) her on her way to work. (If not, read more about the whole affair at Around This Town blog.) I can only hope that she's found herself a nice little retail shop to work in on the Route 90 strip where she can feel better about her commute to work.

Some have argued that a spouse's comments or opinions have nothing to do with the candidate themselves. I disagree. A candidate is responsible for his or her campaign team and, like it or not, a spouse is part of that team, just like the campaign manager or a volunteer handing out leaflets. If one of them blurts out (or has posted) something negative about drunken natives, Jewish lawyers, car-bombing Muslims, it's the candidate's job to manage the fallout.

That brings me to the main point of my post: Gord Steeves' decision to disappear rather than deal with the issue. What was a smouldering fire that could have been stamped out was left to engulf the house. In the meantime, pundits, media and newspaper commenters are only happy to fill the vaccuum that was left, allowing his campaign to be thrown way off message and its image tarnished.

How bad has his disappearing act been ? Even his Facebook page has gone untouched for days, allowing the wall to be filled with the comments of those who don't appreciate his spouse's views.

His inability to deal with this issue shows poor political savvy, a poor communications strategy and might hint that when a tough or controversial issue comes up, which will happen when you are mayor, that he might prefer to duck out rather than deal with it. (Tuesday's Ed Burkhardt-esque appearance to speak to the issue will only help stop the bleeding, not heal the injury.)

Steeves' campaign slogan "Experience you can trust" obviously suggests that his time in municipal politics will be a plus in the mayor's chair. That experience is nowhere to be seen on his first tough challenge on the campaign trail.

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