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Steeves to address wife's comments

Leading rivals in race take aim at remarks

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Gord Steeves, accompanied by his wife, Lorrie, goes to city hall in May to sign papers to run for mayor.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Gord Steeves, accompanied by his wife, Lorrie, goes to city hall in May to sign papers to run for mayor. Photo Store

After four days of silence, mayoral candidate Gord Steeves plans to speak today about the controversial statements posted by his wife.

His announcement in a press release Sunday didn't stop three other leading mayoral candidate from weighing in on the controversy Monday.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she was "disappointed" to hear both the comments by Lorrie Steeves and Steeves' announcement on Friday, which included spending up to $800,000 for 20 new police cadets to patrol the downtown area. Steeves' wife posted comments on her Facebook site four years ago saying she had been approached downtown by "drunken native guys."

"This is completely out of the spirit of what happened just a day before when the Downtown BIZ launched the CEO Sleepout where the community is coming together to develop positive solutions to homelessness," Wasylycia-Leis said.

"I believe in making Winnipeg a city that works and that includes building a fair and inclusive city with opportunities for everyone.

"I believe it is important for Gord Steeves to stand up and say it is not helpful for anyone in this city to be casting disparaging remarks... about a population in our city.

'As a leader in my community I have a responsibility to ensure that what I say is said appropriately... You have the responsibility to educate those around you. It takes time and it takes love, but it has to be done'

-- mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette, referring to the controversy surrounding fellow candidate Gord Steeves and his wife, Lorrie (right)

"If my husband should say something horrible... I would not want to be held responsible for that. But I would be very embarrassed and it would feel very necessary to get out in front of it and say, 'I in no way accept or tolerate those kind of comments.' "

Robert-Falcon Ouellette said he feels sorry for Steeves and his wife.

Speaking at an announcement outside city hall, Ouellette said Steeves needs to have a difficult conversation with his wife about the comments.

"As a leader in my community I have a responsibility to ensure that what I say is said appropriately... You have the responsibility to educate those around you. It takes time and it takes love, but it has to be done," Ouellette said.

"I think there is a certain level of responsibility about the people who you surround yourself with... Because at the end of the day, they're going to influence how you think and what you believe in."

Lorrie Steeves publicly apologized Friday for the Facebook posting, but Gord Steeves has said nothing about it.

Ouellette said if one wants to be the city's mayor, "you need to be forthright and come forward about issues right away."

Brian Bowman said as a lawyer who specializes in writings on social media, he knows "words matter and words can hurt. I find those comments deeply offensive but I am focusing on policy today."

Bowman denounced Lorrie Steeves' remarks as hurtful and wrong, but wouldn't comment on whether her husband should be accountable.

"I'll leave that to voters. Personally, I think there are enough differences (between the candidates) on policy and I'd encourage people to look at policy differences."

There are eight candidates in the race for the Oct. 22 mayoral vote.

Steeves, a lawyer who was a sitting councillor in 2010, had been considered one of the front-runners. He resigned from council in 2011 and ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the legislature.

"We need to get these people educated so they can make their own damn money instead of hanging out and harrassing (sic) the honest people who are grinding away working hard for their money," Lorrie Steeves wrote on her Facebook page four years ago. The page was open for all viewers to read.

She apologized Friday for the remarks.

"In 2010, while I was working downtown, I was regularly harassed for money and often put in a position where I feared for my safety," Lorrie Steeves said in her apology. "One day in particular, four years ago, was very bad and out of frustration I vented on my personal Facebook page. I feel terrible about these comments. I am terribly sorry and apologize."

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2014 A5

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