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Handling of Steeves controversy bizarre

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From the bizarre to the absurd and then, finally, the incredibly awkward.

Mayoral candidate Gord Steeves, soundly roasted in the media for a Facebook post his wife made four years ago, finally faced the media.

Four days ago, it was learned his wife, Lorrie, had posted an angry rant against "drunken native guys." Although she issued an apology, the candidate went off the grid, rebuffing all interview requests or offers of face-to-face meetings with poverty and aboriginal activists.

And then, Tuesday at Bonnycastle Park in downtown Winnipeg, he emerged. This is where the absurd comes in.

Although Steeves’ campaign had promised to do an event on Tuesday, on the morning of there was still no hint of time or location. Media outlets were finally given the information, but only if they agreed not to post the details on their websites or discuss publicly.

This messy attempt to conceal the location was foolish bid to control a situation that had grown out of control, thanks in large part to the candidate’s refusal to address the controversy.

Then, the awkward part. Rather than deal with the pressing matter, Steeves launched into a rather muddy pledge to streamline the development process by eliminating layers of permits and public hearings.

He would eventually reveal his wife was twice accosted by intoxicated panhandlers in a skyway just prior to the post. He did not excuse the comments, but did say that they were born out of fear and frustration on his wife’s part.

Steeves is right — that experience doesn’t excuse the comments. However, it’s likely everyone would have liked to know more about why a city councillor’s wife would take to Facebook to air such egregious comments.

It remains a mystery why Steeves did not meet with opinion leaders in the anti-poverty and aboriginal communities to explain the context for his wife’s comments, and apologize directly. That certainly could have released some of the pressure building over this mess.

However, even after facing the music, Steeves seemed unable to put it to rest. The lasting image from the event was Steeves, after a prolonged period of questions and answers, walking back to his car and rebuffing attempts by an aboriginal man in a smart grey business suit to stop for a chat.

Steeves shook his head and kept on walking. And that appears to be the prevailing strategy he will employ from now until election day.

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