Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Katz always proves to be the king of denial

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We all get through life by using a little healthy helping of denial.

It's just part of being human.

So it was that last year a book emerged that plumbed the intellectual depths of the subject: Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind, basically presented the theory the ability to live in denial about our mortality is what has given the human species the drive to survive and evolve.

Which brings me to my own theory about a man who is a master of denial.

Our mayor.

For the last decade, Sam Katz has taken the human inclination to be self-delusional and turned denial into a personal political strategy. It's a cynical and manipulative survival strategy that has allowed him to deny, deny and deny again his own responsibility for the collapse of the public's trust in city hall. Much like the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the emperor who ended up naked in the streets because he believed he was wearing clothes made from invisible fabric, our mayor seems to only believe what our mayor wants to believe, whenever it's convenient for him to believe it.

The most recent case in point: the mayor's attempt to discredit and deny the validity of an outside audit of city hall property transactions that is damning of an administration overseen at the time by his "good friend" and now former chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl. But back then, when Sheegl was appointed to the position, Katz denied having anything to do with getting him the job. That was before it was revealed the mayor lobbied behind the scenes for his "good friend."

A few weeks before the audit was released, when Katz announced he would not seek re-election, he also denied its imminent release had anything to do with that decision.

Maybe not.

It's hard to know when denial is your natural go-to position.

It was during that announcement -- made against what was intended to be the symbolic backdrop of a rejuvenated Central Park -- Katz called its revival one of his proudest achievements, as was the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and new investments in Assiniboine Park.

The mayor can take his share of responsibility for all of those projects, even though they were driven by private partners. But if he's going to claim his share of credit for those shining examples of the progress the city has made on his watch, he should man up and take responsibility for the hideous entrails of administrative mismanagement the real estate audit suggests.

A few days after Katz announced he wouldn't be running again, an interview was broadcast on radio that showcased his denial strategy in different ways. He was asked what his regrets were.

"You know," Katz began, "I do have regrets. A regret. Maybe a few regrets."

But instead of listing them, Katz launched into a rambling soliloquy that suggested his major regret was having to deal with media scrutiny.

"(I) didn't understand completely, like, it's nice to have people report the news. And that's not always the case. Sometimes people give their opinions, or conjecture. And you know, my life has always been in the real world. I believe in reality. The facts and the truth. You know, not about perception."

That was followed by a question based on listener feedback about Katz bowing out after the October civic election.

"The majority of people say they're glad to see you go. How hard is that to hear?"

"Uh, I'm not convinced that's very true. I mean I've been getting emails and I betcha I've got more emails and texts than you have. As a matter of fact, people are extremely sad... It's not surprising to me to hear you say that, but I'm seeing the exact opposite."

The interviewer, trying to gently coax Katz back to reality, reminded the mayor that, according to a poll, only 12 per cent of voters would like to see him as mayor again.

"Well, let me share something with you," Katz said. "Out of all the people who now hold office as a city councillor or mayor I was No. 1 as far as popularity. So there you go. No. 1."

My fellow citizens, I give you our own emperor of Winnipeg. Delusional, as ever, when it comes to the naked truth.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2014 B1

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