EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

WINNIPEG POLITICO – Puts the “Spin” in “Spin Doctor”

SCOTT FIELDING (SF WEBSITE)
SCOTT FIELDING (SF WEBSITE)

Note to all Winnipeg Mayoral Candidates who might be considering a run in the next civic election.  Winnipeg residents are sick and tired of lies, manipulation, lack of accountability, waste and political spin.

Urban Dictionary.com defines a Spin Doctors as;

“An operative who uses his platform to influence the perception of a person, organization, or event. Like a damage-control PR person.”

The online web dictionary also provides a list of words related to the term.  Words like;

  • Bullshit artist
  • Bullshit
  • Horseshit
  • Liar
  • Lies
  • Politician
  • Propaganda
  • Fecal weaving
  • Turd Polish

It seems City Councillor Scott Fielding somehow missed the memo.

Fielding is an intelligent, ambitious, hard-working man who won the St James-Brooklands seat in 2006 earning forty-eight (48%) percent of the vote.  He also performs the important civic function of sitting as Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board.  Since taking on these duties Fielding has used social media platforms like Twitter to share crime statistics with his followers. Unfortunately, he seems to have difficulty resisting the urge to enhance the numbers with a little political spin.

Case in point.

The other day Mr Fielding posted a tweet celebrating “some optimistic crime stats” on his twitter feed.

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The problem with political spin and social media is there’s always a danger that someone in the twitter verse might be monitoring your posts who can call bullshit on you.  I was quick to challenge Mr Fielding’s optimism.

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That’s right, I wasn’t sure how the Chair of the Police Board could be celebrating optimistic Homicide statistics when we’ve had four (4) murders in the deadly month of April.  It also seemed a tad foolish to trumpet a 46.4% decline in Homicides over the last five years when we set an all time record for killings in 2011 after recording forty-one (41) slayings.  In any event, how can we celebrate a decrease in crime stats unless we can point to a policy or strategy that we can credit for the reduction?  It was a question I thought worthy of a follow-up tweet.

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The answer surprised me….

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After working on over two-hundred (200) Homicide cases over an eight (8) year period with the WPS it seems that someone developed a strategy that resulted in the percentage decrease.  As a student of the game I viewed this as a miraculous piece of news.  As far as I know, Homicide is one of those crimes that can be extremely difficult to predict and even more difficult to impact with proactive measures.  I had to seek clarification…

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The reply that came was reminiscent of the kind of empty response you might hear during a debate in the political arena…

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Huh?

What exactly does that mean, “What I am saying is the numbers are the numbers.”

Respectfully, that’s not what you were trying to say.

Saying “the numbers are the numbers” and claiming a strategy is responsible for the percentage decrease in homicides are two completely different things.  I have no doubt Scott Fielding knows that.  He just got caught playing a game he should know people in Winnipeg are weary of .  If Mr Fielding didn’t know it, honesty, integrity and accountability are sure to be major issues during the civic election campaign season this fall.

Candidates who want to play the “spin doctor” game are sure to be soundly rejected by Winnipeg voters.

Did Fielding take his cue from Mayor Sam Katz who once said, “I have no problem going downtown, I have no problem going to the North End, regardless of the day of the week, regardless of what time it is.”  As I said before, that kind of denial is irresponsible.  Law abiding Citizens need to be able to trust the information Politicians feed them. Public Safety is not a game to be played by people motivated by political gain or self-interest.

I don’t think Mr Fielding is a bad guy and I don’t really know enough about him to make any character assessments.  What I do know is he should have a higher standard of accountability if he expects to be elected Mayor in a City that’s still reeling from Fire Hall fiascos, Police HQ debacles, snow removal nightmares and unprecedented infrastructure decay.

Winnipeg residents have lived in the darkness associated with national leading murder, robbery, arson and violent crime statistics for far to long to be insulted by politicians who want to play the minimization game.

Optimism good.

Realism better.

So let’s keep it real.

13 Comments

  1. (smiles) Hmmmm, I don’t know if you agree with me, but your statement is 100% true.

  2. James G Jewell

    The truth is an elusive element in any political discussion.

  3. James G Jewell

    Steven..

    Thank you for your comments and support.

    I didn’t report on the Chad Davis case because James Turner covered it with unprecedented detail and enthusiasm.

    I never reported on the Kembel case because I draw a line at exposing covert Police techniques. I choose to leave that to other crime reporters who have no trouble getting past the moral question.

    I do like to report on RCMP issues and murder cases and have done so on many occasions. I have yet to write on the recent murders on Roseau River because the WPS has kept me busy with the Opera Night Club murder and associate scandal.

    I do appreciate and respect your comments regarding the RCMP. They do great work and deserve recognition for it.

    I think I need to hire a couple of other crime reporters.

  4. James G Jewell

    Absolutely, it’s the perception vs reality game some people want to play.

    I just think it’s reckless and irresponsible.

    Thanks for commenting.

  5. LOL. You have these problems in Winnipeg too?

    The number game, as I like to call it, is justification for how the city spends your hard earned tax dollars. The fudging of numbers (stats) is more about real estate and property values. You will never hear a politician or Chief of police (who is politician’ish) say an area of their city isn’t safe, otherwise people wouldn’t want to move or do business there. Occupied real estate equals tax dollars. The higher the property value, the more tax dollars collected.

  6. Good day Mr. Jewell,

    I really enjoy reading your articles and various commentary in relation to police and the CJS.

    I have noted you don’t typically comment on the RCMP in Manitoba. I was wondering if this is a strictly WPS reporting website??

    I have been following the news and recently the RCMP have been involved in a few high profile murder cases which have both resulted in 1st degree and 2nd degree murder convictions, namely the Chad Davis murder case and most recently the Chris Kembel cold case file where the mounties used a “Mr. Big” Undercover operation which resulted in a 2nd degree murder conviction. No doubt both of the mentioned investigations were definetly not the typical “smoking gun” homicides and required significant investigation / expertise. I think some of these investigations conducted by the mounties should receive some sort of recognition.

    Thanks again

    I will contiue to follow your website

    Steve

  7. I can see where the impetus to spin comes from. Fielding wants people to feel safe, therefore he is inclined to feel-good platitudes.

    I’d prefer people to actually be safe. I’ve spent quite a lot of time working in our community and I know that there are safer and less safe streets, days, and hours to put yourself out there. Anybody who works in the community at all hours of the day and night figures it out eventually.

  8. Paul Edwards is Vice Chair…

  9. I thought Paul Edwards was the chair?

  10. Forget a higher standard of accountability as a mayoral candidate. As Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board his opinions should be irrefutably non-partisan in every possible respect or he should immediately recuse himself. The chairmanship is not a platform to stump for other offices ; it’s a duty unto itself.

  11. Ahh, the delicate art of fecal-weaving. Unfortunately for Fielding et al, social media enables people to instantly challenge claims made by politicians and others. Once posted into twitterverse, it is open season. False or unsubstantiated claims are laid out in the open for people to ponder and consider. I hope the other illustrious mayoral candidates don’t view the public they wish to serve as that naive and stupid!

    At least he didn’t reply with the Katzian “Well, the reality is…” That truly is insulting.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight James.

  12. Yes, I appreciate that.

    Very smooth play on your part.

  13. Glad I could help draw you into that discussion with him.

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