THE GORD STEEVES CAMPAIGN – Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad


The latest scandal to afflict the Gord Steeve’s Mayoral campaign has all the components required for truly great theatre…..controversy, chivalry, injury, social awkwardness, stereotyping and the “r” word.

As I watched the debacle unfold I had no inclination to weigh in.  I prefer to avoid stories that create media frenzies reported on by every pundit, journalist and writer in the Province.

Then came the press conference.

As I watched Mr Steeves struggle through one of the most awkward media events I’ve ever witnessed, I couldn’t help but conclude he simply isn’t ready to be Mayor of the City of Winnipeg.


In a word, Leadership.

I don’t fault Mr Steeves for supporting his wife and I certainly don’t hold him accountable for the words or opinions she expressed in social media.  But the fact remains, the things Lorrie Steeves said were racist, hurtful and help to perpetuate negative racial stereotypes at the expense of Aboriginal people.  There was a way to deal with the controversy but saying his spouse apologized and I support her simply wasn’t enough.


Because of our history and because of our current reality.

On Monday, I attended a meeting convened by the Winnipeg Police Board designed to communicate and consult with citizens to assist in the development of programs and policy.  Prior to the start of the meeting participants were provided reference material that included a segment titled, “Challenges for Aboriginal People” under the heading “Winnipeg Environment.”

The document included the following factoids;

  • Aboriginal people have experienced racism, colonization, residential schools, oppression and dispossession of land, language and livelihood
  • 75% of Aboriginal people who attended residential schools have mental health issues, substance abuse issues or PTSD
  • Aboriginal women are three times (3x’s) more likely to be a victim of spousal abuse
  • Aboriginal youth are six times (6x’s) more likely to commit suicide
  • Between 2007 – 2011, 88% of admissions to secure custody under the YCJA were Aboriginal
  • In 2011-2012, 69% of adult persons in custody were Aboriginal
  • Aboriginal people represent 10% of the population of the City of Winnipeg
  • The Aboriginal population is projected to be more than 100,000 people by the year 2020

When you look at these factoids you have to connect the dots on one of the most significant issues that faces the City of Winnipeg.

In a word, crime.

Winnipeg’s status as a leader in our Nation’s crime severity index and the Aboriginal experience are inextricably connected.   Mayoral candidates can’t afford to be blind to that reality.  Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis is trying to be a catalyst for change in our crime challenged City.  “We have the potential to lead all of North America in revolutionizing Policing,” Clunis said at the Police Board meeting.

That revolution includes a commitment to,”prevent crime through social development.”

That revolution requires an inclusive approach that embraces the Aboriginal community.

That revolution requires a deep understanding of the impacts of racism, poverty and crime.

That revolution requires a Mayor who recognizes and respects the importance of the fastest growing demographic in the City of Winnipeg.

While Gord Steeves didn’t have to “own” his wife’s racist diatribe on social media, he certainly could have acknowledged the hurt those comments caused for his Aboriginal constituents.  An acknowledgement and apology was all the medicine required to begin the healing process.  His failure to walk down the conciliatory path is an indictment of his leadership and his potential as a Mayoral candidate.

That’s too bad because from where I sit he seemed to be running one of the most substantive, progressive campaigns.

For the record….

I worked the streets in downtown Winnipeg for over twenty-three (23) years and during that time I encountered hundreds of drunk, aggressive pan handlers and vagrants.

And guess what, they came in all colours, shapes and sizes.


Even if you disagree with the sentiment expressed in this editorial then ask yourself this question;

If you were going to run for a major political office would you not vet your own social media and that of your spouse and children?

It seems unconscionable to me that Mr Steeves or someone associated with his political campaign didn’t have the vision or foresight to engage in a social media vetting process.  We hear about “vetting” in American politics all the time.  Even if you don’t watch CNN what politician hasn’t heard of Kevin Spacey’s award winning series, “The House of Cards.”  If you haven’t seen it, “vetting” is a central theme in the political drama.

The failure to engage in a vetting process speaks to a lack of attention to detail.

A quality any viable Mayoral candidate should possess.


  1. jodi reitberget

    Not only do you need to embrace you need to respect the entire nation of people that helped establish our city through the aforementioned life experiences they have had to endure and are still persevering… we are all one race…its called Human

  2. I don’t go into downtown Winnipeg unless I absolutely have to. Why? Because it is rife with “pandandlers” “street people” “squeegee kids” “street gang” members and all of the other dregs of society who are looking to mooch money for their next cigarette, beer or drug hit.

    Mrs. Steeves used some improper language in her post but for the most part, I completely agree with her and I’m betting many thousands of other people who live in Winnipeg do as well. A good friend and I were “jumped and robbed” by three thugs back in the late 70’s so I know all too well of this embarrassing problem we have. One of these candidates for mayor needs to step up to the plate and spell out if and how they are going to fix it. Oh, right. Mr. Steeves has done that already, correct? Now let’s hear from the rest of them. What are THEY going to do? Probably nothing. Welcome to the city of Winnipeg where carring a weapon for self protection when venturing into the downtown area is not a far-fetched idea.

    And finally, this idea of Gord Steeves dropping out of the race for mayor is the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. For what? Something his wife said when she was under extreme duress? I don’t think so. And these native leaders running around saying he has to “reach out fo the aboriignal commmunity” is another idea out of the twilight zone. Gord Steeves DIDN’T DO OR SAY ANYTHING. Someone else did and the folks running around bashing him need to find another mule to whip. Let’s get on with picking a new mayor and one who is going to address this nonsense happening downtown because the safety issue is a joke and everyone knows it. The sooner it is fixed the better off we will all be.

  3. The Midtown Troll

    Interesting read as always, James. Always enjoy reading your perspective. As a shameless plug, I just put up a post as well, also touched on people’s valid downtown crime concerns. We may be of different opinion in that I speculate this may be a boost to Steeves’ campaign.


  4. For anyone tired of mainstream media, check out this link…


  5. I think we need to take ideas from both Mateo’s comments as well as James. Steeve’s had a perfect opportunity to take a negative and turn it into a positive by first acknowledging his wife’s misstep (which although was’t pretty and I’m sure it was out of frustration, but none the less racist in it’s nature and delivery) and secondly being a leader and using this issue to open up dialogue to start a positive change for our Down Town. He didn’t step up and own the issue! Thus making a clear indication that he is not the right choice for Winnipeg. Winnipeg is a cultural melting pot and is diverse in it communities and make up. This isn’t an Aboriginal problem per say…. it is a Winnipeg problem and must be dealt with on a global basis…. it can’t always come down to race

  6. James G Jewell

    I appreciate your comments but consider this..

    She may have directed her comments at the men who accosted her in the skywalk but the reality is her comments perpetuate multiple negative stereotypes that Aboriginal people have struggled with for decades.

    Those stereotypes are offensive and injurious to Aboriginal people.

    How white middle class people interpret her comments is less important than how the comments are perceived and interpreted by Aboriginal people.

    A man running for Mayor of Winnipeg should recognize that fact and be sincere in his attempt to remedy the damage that was done.

    Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

  7. James, I respectfully disagree with some of your comments. Mrs. Steeves comments were directly aimed at the native guys who accosted her in the skywalk, that doesn’t paint an entire people with the same stereotypical brush. She never stated that all natives behave this way. She vented a specific negative experience.

    I do ,however, fully agree with your statement that we need connection rather than division. It saddens me that my great grandchildren won’t even see this. As long as there are different rules for different people (based solely on race) who must try to coexist in the same space, there will never be harmony. There will always be animosity when the government continues to drive a deeper wedge between natives and others. I’m not a hateful person, I’m a realist.

  8. All I can say is @ Mateo said it correct . He said everything i was going to say. I’m outta here.

  9. James G Jewell

    I’ve seen the kind of sentiment you express in your comments shared in the comment sections of main stream media covering the scandal.

    The message people are missing is that the comments, whether you can relate to them in some fashion or not, are racist, hurtful and paint an entire people with the same stereotypical brush when in reality, alcoholism, panhandling and vagrancy are issues that affect all races, creeds and colours.

    What we need in this community is connection not division.

    The comments were hurtful and divisive and Mr Steeves failure to acknowledge that as a potential leader in this community is a failure of true leadership.

    The next Mayor of Winnipeg needs to have a deep understanding regarding issues of racism & poverty and their correlation to crime.

    The next Mayor of Winnipeg needs to work with Aboriginal people and partner in a movement to assist them realize the Canadian dream and exit the Canadian nightmare many of them are currently living.

    Mr Steeves, the Mayoral candidate, has already lost the faith of the Aboriginal Community.

    What does that say about his ability to impact meaningful change as Mayor of our City.

    Thank you for commenting…

  10. James G Jewell

    Great read….thanks for sharing!

  11. Sometimes it takes an ilconcieved, shortsighted, momentary lapse of political correctness for the truth to rear it’s ugly head. The cold, hard truth is seldom convenient, pretty, and rarely comes with a cute little bow on top. The truth, as many Winnipegger’s know all too well, is similar to the experience Mrs. Steeves related to the entire world to read. However crass the offending FB post was, it is probably how most hard-working, tax-paying citizens feel when they must go downtown. Anyone who works downtown, or goes to Jets games, etc. can and likely does relate to the sentiment shared by Mrs. Steeves. It’s the elephant in the room everybody pretends they don’t see. It is the type of thing a lot of people would like to express, but choose not to out of fear of being labeled a racist rather than captain obvious. There is a reason Winnipeg experiences such extreme urban sprawl, and why business can’t survive downtown and it has nothing to do with the Portage and Main being closed to pedestrian traffic.
    Gord missed his opportunity to step up and demonstrate leadership, and decisiveness. At the same time, I believe the native leaders missed an opportunity to acknowledge there is a real and ever-growing problem within our city. Instead of “demanding” an apology from a mayoral hopeful, they should have conceded the obvious and used this as a platform to attempt to affect change for the better. Instead, everybody pretends that Mrs. Steeves is the evil, racist bigot that should just learn to live with and be content with the state of our downtown skywalk residents and embrace the aggressive, frightening manner in which these bums ask for money to continue their perpetual drunken stupor.

  12. Leadership ability certainly is on my list of criteria for our next mayor. I’m looking for candidates who demonstrate as much sense as a goose.


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