Awkward misdirection unlikely to fool Manitobans

There are two simple, undeniable rules about magic tricks:

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Opinion

There are two simple, undeniable rules about magic tricks:

First, there’s actually no such thing as “magic”; as the appended “trick” implies, what’s really in play is a deception intended to convince an audience that something wondrous has occurred.

And second, the success or failure of any magic trick depends almost entirely on the performer’s ability to misdirect the audience’s attention — sleight of hand, in prestidigitational parlance — while the raw mechanics of the illusion are being executed basically in plain sight.

All of which brings us to the ongoing pandemic-policy posturing of the Stefanson government, which by almost every discernible measure seems to have adopted a strategy of refusing to publicly acknowledge COVID-19 still exists.

Mass vaccination and testing centres have been closed. Regular briefings been abandoned. The availability of information about COVID-19 has been curtailed to the point of profoundly enfeebled inadequacy.

The availability of information about COVID-19 has been curtailed to the point of profoundly enfeebled inadequacy.

At a time when Canada’s chief public health officer is imploring provinces to step up their game when it comes to promoting the vaccine booster doses, the best this province’s health minister could muster when asked this week why Manitoba isn’t doing more to encourage booster uptake was to jubilate about having publicly received her own third jab and mutedly bluster about the presence of promotional benches at selected city bus stops.

The “trick” of the Stefanson government’s current pandemic strategy, then, is apparently to make Manitobans believe COVID-19 has disappeared. One can’t argue with the desire for such an outcome, as mismanagement of the pandemic response is undoubtedly the weightiest albatross the government will carry into next year’s provincial election.

These billboards have started popping up in the city. (Tom Brodbeck / Winnipeg Free Press)

So now comes the misdirection — this week arriving in the form of billboards plastered with bold-font declarations about the government’s just-released Budget 2022 and how it’s (in one sign’s message, at least) “clearing the surgical and diagnostic backlog.”

In the current pandemic-strained and restructuring-addled reality of the health-care system, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Tens upon tens of thousands of Manitobans continue to languish on waiting lists for procedures and diagnostic tests that have been rendered virtually unavailable, and to date the task force assembled by the province to produce rapid and laser-focused relief has instead produced mostly faint-hope whispers of impending action.

As political legerdemain-leading misdirections go, this $245,000 ad campaign is destined to fail. Any magician worth their cottontail-concealing top hat knows the trick won’t work if the fake-out isn’t convincing. And any current claims that the surgical and diagnostic backlog is on its way to being solved are so laughably preposterous that they will be dismissed outright.

The audience — as in Manitoban voters — will not be so easily bamboozled. Implanting notions of a COVID-19 disappearance in their minds will be impossible to achieve. And when the audience shouts out, before the flourish, that they can see the rabbit in the hat, the duly chastened conjurer must concede the ruse has collapsed.

Any magician worth their cottontail-concealing top hat knows the trick won’t work if the fake-out isn’t convincing.

Of course, there might be a noteworthy dissimilarity between the aforementioned mythical magician and the very real Progressive Conservative government currently in office, which has yet to be considered.

The wand-waving entertainer wants very much for the audience to be awed by their magical antics, but is fully aware the elephant in the room has not actually dematerialized.

Premier Heather Stefanson and her government desperately need the public to believe their pandemic response has been effective, to the point they appear to have convinced themselves the figurative pachyderm actually has vanished into thin air.

And all the audience is left with, lamentably, is a clearer understanding of the difference between illusion and delusion.

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