An adviser to Gord Steeves has quit the former city councillor's campaign for mayor, claiming he's embarrassed by his involvement with what he described as a "floundering campaign."
Derek Rolstone, a former key Steeves adviser, quit the campaign Sunday, several weeks after his role in the campaign was reduced.
Rolstone, a former Sam Katz policy adviser, began advising Steeves this winter in a volunteer capacity, initially as a lead adviser for a period of several months. Steeves said Rolstone was reduced to playing a peripheral role "by mutual agreement" several weeks ago. On Sunday, Rolstone quit the Steeves campaign altogether, claiming he had to protect his reputation after a trio of disappointing campaign events.
"This 'guilt by association' has made for a very painful week for me and my family,' " Rolstone wrote in an email to Steeves. "There have now been three public events that have left the public and media with the impression that Team Steeves is the 'gang that couldn't shoot straight.' "
In October, when Steeves announced his intention to run for mayor, the lawyer and 11-year city councillor ran afoul of municipal campaign-spending regulations because money was spent on an Assiniboine Park venue rental before the campaign-registration period began.
Rolstone said he had nothing to do with the October event or a decision to distribute homemade signs he said made a May 1 city hall registration event "look like amateur hour."
Rolstone said "the last straw" for his involvement with the Steeves campaign was "the debacle" at Polo Park Canad Inns on May 12 -- a poorly publicized event that attracted fewer than 20 people.
"Due to the lack of leadership on this (and other issues like: not opening an office, not doing [opposition] research, not putting [an] events team together, etc.), I just don't feel comfortable anymore on the campaign," Rolstone wrote.
Rolstone also claimed he counselled Steeves to make a major policy announcement the day after the candidate registered. Steeves has yet to make a campaign promise.
Steeves, who was away from the city over the weekend, said he's saddened to learn of Rolstone's departure. "I'm a bit disappointed he took the step of sending the Free Press a letter, but I wish him well. I harbour no ill feelings," Steeves said Wednesday. "We've made some changes, and the campaign feels like it's going fairly well right now. We went through some choppy water, no question about it."
Steeves declined to name his current campaign advisers. Rolstone said former Katz campaign manager and Conservative party strategist Marni Larkin is advising the campaign.
A Steeves campaign volunteer, however, denied that claim, insisting it is, in fact, Larkin's business partner who is advising Steeves. As a CBC board member, Larkin would not advise the campaign, said the volunteer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In a pair of mayoral-race polls, Steeves ranked as the second-most-popular choice of the Winnipeg electorate, following former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who has not registered to run.
Along with Steeves, the other high-profile candidates to register their mayoral campaigns are privacy lawyer Brian Bowman and Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck.