Saturday, December 28, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: A Couple of Interesting Polls and Then Just a Whole Bunch of Drinking and Driving in This Post (ManLinkWeek S02E10)

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly!

There was no WIPs this Wednesday, because Wednesday was Christmas. So Merry Christmas! Here's a neat local Christmas album I'd put up earlier in the week, if you'd missed it; you're probably all done with Christmas music for the year, but there's always next year, hey? Always next year.

Deck the halls with ManLinkWeek! Let's open with a pair of fascinating year-end polling results:

[ Winnipeg Free Press: Wasylycia-Leis strong in survey ]
[ CTV Winnipeg: Wasylycia-Leis front-runner in mayoral race poll ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Poll says Katz could face stiff competition for re-election ]
How bad are the polls for Mayor Sam Katz? He's in Manitoba NDP territory. It's that bad.

It's interesting that so much of the focus has been on Wasylycia-Leis' numbers, because, really, they haven't budged much in about three years now. She drew 43% of the vote in the final 2010 election results, and she's currently polling at 45%; margins of error being what they are, Judy's numbers are basically unchanged. So it's funny to consider the difference that a few years can make, especially for how largely silent she's been since; the story isn't that she's still at less than half, the story is that she held pat and her competition crumbled around her.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the year(s) he's had, Katz has been steadily bleeding support; he's down to a mere 22% now, 9% dedicated and 13% iffy, which wouldn't seal a 2014 victory without a minimum of four other confirmed candidates in the mix. And all of those other four candidates would have to split the anyone-but-the-incumbent sentiment without stealing any of his centre-right base, which... seems drastically unlikely, at present; the majority of the remaining polling field is a swirl of nondescript centre-right white males, biding their time to see if Caesar shall go forth.

Worse still for Katz's chances, his polling figures are standalone -- not Katz vs. X, or Katz vs. Y, or Katz vs. Wow That's a Lot of White People. No, he was a yes-no question all by himself: if he runs again in 2014, would you vote for him? 9% said "yes", 13% said "sure" (I'm paraphrasing), 17% said "probably not" and 57% said "absolutely not". For a mayor that won with 55% of the vote three years back, that's a heck of a boulder between him and the top of the hill.

But you'll note, of course, that the polls do not include River Heights-Fort Garry councillor John Orlikow; he only recently announced his consideration of a mayoral bid, because of course he did. Who isn't thinking of running, am I right? Consulting with friends, deliberating with family, waiting to be included in one round of polling before making any decisions, that sort of thing. 'Tis the season!

So it's really all a whirlwind of hypotheticals, at this point. Steeves is locked in -- he has the pre-campaigning-period bills to prove it -- and is currently sitting at 25%, or functionally equivalent to Katz should he run; everyone else is thus far undeclared, a perpetual-motion abacus of what-ifs. JWL is at 45%, but a theoretical Orlikow run could siphon away some of that base; only the centre-left "oh-but-I'm-a-Liberal" portion, though, because Judy has the left-left basically locked. Are there any theoretical mayoral candidates who would be considered left of Judy Wasylycia-Leis? Nick Ternette died in March, bear in mind.

Let us assume for the moment that 55%-60% of the city's active vote is right to centre-right, and that 40%-45% is left to centre-left. This fully checks out over the last ten years of civic elections and polls. I know, that's weird. If Steeves is as in as he says he is, his current 25% support leaves a 30%-to-35% ceiling that will be parceled out among however many other centre-right-onward types run. Including the Mayor, and I know I ran the Julius Caesar reference already, but you'll note that I'm not even the first to be using the "knives are out" metaphor.

Wasylycia-Leis and Orlikow would be dividing a combined 45% between them, should Orlikow indeed run, but there are still five centre-right candidates right now splitting a prospective 55%-to-60% field. Steeves, Katz, Havixbeck, Bowman, Fiel--

Fielding ain't running. Can I just call that right now? I've enjoyed all of the civic ideas that he's put forward since examining his prospects, referenda and alternate budgets and all that, but dude's polling fifth out of five in his intended base at the moment. He's the Russ Wyatt of the field (or the Andrew Swan, if you prefer). Ain't no shame in that! Good on him for putting himself out there, it was worth a shot, y'never know until you try.

Bear in mind, too, though -- this isn't even the final roster! People have until (holy hell) the end of April to permanently declare whether or not they're running, so there may or may not be some surprises lurking yet; expect some coy answers and tentative looks until then. But the one thing we've definitively determined from this round of polling is that the seated mayor doesn't have the numbers he'd need for another election, and it's difficult to craft a scenario that'd propel him to victory despite himself. Like, Bowman and Havixbeck and Fielding all decide not to run, plus Steeves mysteriously drops out, plus Orlikow both runs and manages to perfectly split JWL's support? That seems plausible, right? If you have a believable combination of events that would lead to the re-election of the easiest civic target in decades, believe me, mang, I am all ears.

(pauses, checks overrun balances, takes long swig of brown tap water)

Also in recent polling news:

[ Winnipeg Free Press: NDP support dwindling: poll ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Manitoba Tories rise as NDP slips, poll suggests ]
[ Global Winnipeg: Support for Manitoba NDP dwindling ]
[ Brandon Sun: Work cut out for us: Caldwell ]
How bad are the polls for the Manitoba NDP? They're in Mayor Sam Katz territory. It's that bad.

(Also Howard Pawley bad, but this phrasing puts it into equal perspective, I think.)

Selinger has tried to brush the public reaction off as "heartburn" and promise "no major tax increases" for 2014 -- but he'd also promised that the PST hike would all go into infrastructure, grotesquely stretching the definitions of both "all" and "infrastructure". So, y'know.

The Premier's opposition poll numbers are not nearly as daunting as the Mayor's opposition poll numbers -- 20% for the Liberals? The Manitoba Liberals? C'mon, who're you fooling -- but they certainly aren't encouraging, especially within the city. With an extra year to brainstorm, though, the NDP have more leeway; there's plenty of time to gamble on announcements that could drive the numbers up, they can still hit the panic button of switching leaders should the tanking continue, and if there's one thing that the Manitoba Conservatives have shown themselves capable of it is blowing leads. (Someone within the Conservative caucus is working on an electable budget proposal as we speak, right?)

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the NDP's most recent drop:

[ Winnipeg Sun: Selinger calls byelections in Morris, Arthur-Virden ]
[ CTV Winnipeg: Province calls byelections in Morris and Arthur-Virden ]
[ Brandon Sun: Byelections in traditional Tory ridings set for Jan. 28 ]

[ Winnipeg Sun: The not-so-top 10: The biggest wastes of your money in 2013 ]
'Tis the season for year-end lists! So here's local rabblerouser and tough-on-crime watchdog Tom Brodbeck, counting down his top ten ways that the civic and provincial governments wasted your honest hard-earned tax dollars throughout this past year.

What's that? The comments on that article are closed? I say. Seems a little odd, in'nt? Not so much, as it turns out, because--

[ frankmagazine: Anti-drunk driving Sun Media columnist nailed for drunk driving ]
[ Observations, Reservations, Conversations: What the Media Ignores ]
[ Imperfectly Balanced: An open letter to Tom Brodbeck ] (!)
Oh, goodness. Well. Well, that's awkward.

Not helping any, this is what the Provincial Government's Twitter account sent out the day the news broke:

Youuuuu dinks. You dinks! You cheeky so-and-sos.

Despite being quite obviously out there in the public eye, this story sat open and festering for a good half a week or so. It was not a good look -- squabbly alternative types chirping for days on end about "mainstream media secrecy", "the old boys' club", "closing ranks", "stories they're afraid to touch", so on and so forth and all of that -- but it persisted nonetheless, seething and souring until finally--

[ Winnipeg Free Press: SOBERING FACTS on drunk driving ]
[ Metro Winnipeg: Winnipeg Sun columnist pleads guilty to drunk driving ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Brodbeck pleads guilty to impaired driving ]
It was Mike McIntyre and James Turner of the Free Press who first introduced the story into the local mainstream media -- 'broke' it, if you will -- by including it in a much larger perspective of, appropriately enough, lenient sentencing for drunk drivers. (Yeah, I saw you, Facebook lefties. "HUG-A-THUG!" "A SLAP ON THE WRIST!" Don't even pretend, I know y'all're enjoying this.)

The Sun, of course, obligated to defend their flagship columnist (and I'm almost certain this was a Mike Kelly reference), ran as careful a selection of quotes as they could. "How noble and philosophical he was to plead guilty, when the leniency of our courts could've set him free! A hero to us all!" Firstly, he tried to flee the police when they tailed him and put their lights on, and secondly, he had to plead guilty, because his career would've been absolutely and conclusively dead in an instant if he had been seen as going to trial and fighting the charges against him.

That said; that said. Look. I can't say I don't understand the appeal of the situational irony -- a man who built his public image on crusading against drunk-drivers, himself caught drunk driving -- and I get that a whole lot of people, coincidentally slanting one particular direction over the other, are as pleased as punch to see the man humiliated and humbled. It's ugly, but it's understandable. Human nature, and all that.

But I am an old man now -- (James, you're twenty-nine) -- I am an old man now, and in my old age I just don't have it in me to demonize people any more. Not with the appetite I used to five or ten years ago, although I was never any good at it when I tried, either. We all, all of us -- maybe in a moment in time, maybe over the course of years, maybe to our sudden realization -- we've all, at some point in our lives, grappled with being something that we despise. Haven't we? It's something that you grapple with, it's something you struggle against. How could I? After all of that, after everything I know, how could I do that?

Various folks have tried to call him out for not owning up to it, or for not running an apology, but in dead seriousness that'd be the absolute end of him if he did. It's not a viable option! He can never publicly acknowledge it, never call himself out for being the very thing he railed against, because how could he? Columnists -- and I say this as someone who, until the paper I wrote for got unceremoniously gutted, used to be a columnist -- columnists not specifically accredited in a field they're writing on, say an architect writing about buildings or a former athlete writing about sports, have nothing but their integrity and the reasonability of their arguments to back them up. If you yank that out from under someone -- when a columnist loses his or her moral suasion -- well, what else is there?

This isn't the same over-the-top villainry we're accustomed to seeing from bad-news stories on local journalist types -- exploding into an unprovoked rage at a Liquor Mart clerk, or trying to headshot a gas station attendant with a thrown wallet, or collecting and distributing child pornography. (...well, that ramped up in a hurry. Jesus Christ.) This is an equally inexcusable but rather more plausibly human failing, a thing that people you know and love do, made worse on and for himself because it was something he publicly railed against. This really sort of humanized rather than demonized him, and when you're trying to score points against somebody because you disagree with them, humanizing them at Christmastime isn't the way to go about it.

If he'd killed someone, that definitely would've been the end of him. There's that to it, too, isn't there? "Ha, he could've killed someone! What a rube!" It may be a bit of a long draw here, but I think a lot of you may've had the same eventual reactions to the Rob Ford saga in Toronto; there's a tipping point, even for folks whose politics you may vehemently disagree with, where a story moves from "look how conveniently wacky and dramatic this is!" to "okay, actually, he might need serious help, this has stopped being funny".

And addictions, generally -- try as we might! -- addictions aren't particularly funny. I've tried joking about 'em, because my dad drank himself straight out of my life when I was nine and you have to brace yourself against that somehow, but there's an ice-cold razor of a feeling through your stomach when it first occurs to you that you might be making fun of someone who's actively trying to destroy themselves.

I'm not saying that's the case, here, per se. I don't know Brodbeck outside of his writings, and I can't say I necessarily agree with most of them. (I'm not defending him on this, either, by any means; he fucked up.) It is entirely possible that this all just happened to blow up on him the very first and only time that he ever drank and then drove, however implausible that sounds even as I type it.

But in following how we, all of us, how we've reacted to his undoing -- "Why should anyone ever listen to him again? This man's life is probably ruined! Ha!" -- I just, I can't get into this the way that some of you have. It didn't sit right with me from the start, and there was a very specific point -- reading he'd slowed his own reaction times enough that his attempt to stop at a red light left him "half a car length into the intersection" -- that the joke just absolutely wasn't funny any more. There's nothing but dangerous territory out there, once you're that far gone.

For him, for now, there's nothing else to be done. He'll take the bus to work, and he'll claim the same moral high ground as he did before (because he has to), but it just won't be the same, and he'll have to live with that. People will keep mocking him everywhere he goes, for becoming what he hated, and he'll say nothing in response, because what could he say? How do you defend yourself against what you'd deemed indefensible? Good lord, that's a mess. But at least no one died. There's that, there's that.

And, whatever else Brodbeck is dealing with right now, I suppose at least he wasn't this guy:

[ 680 CJOB: UPDATE: Police Arrest Suspect in Early Morning Chase ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Drunken chase ends in tree ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Police Taser man who allegedly crashed stolen car into tree ]
"The man is charged with impaired driving, flight from police, dangerous operation of motor vehicle, resisting a police officer, assaulting a police officer, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, possession of stolen property, three counts of disobeying a traffic control device and court breaches."


Okay, but no, seriously, don't drink and drive. Drinking and driving is a major prob--

[ Winnipeg Police Service News Release: IMPAIRED DRIVING ARREST – C13-262647 ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Wake of destruction left behind pickup's wild ride ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Man, 60, charged in series of crashes ]
Okay, but no, seriously. Drunk driving is a major problem this time of year.

[ CTV Winnipeg: Man arrested for drunk driving on Christmas Eve ]
Okay, but n--

[ CTV Winnipeg: Police warn drunk drivers: 'We're out here' ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Winnipeg police target drunk drivers ]
Okay, no, but seriously.

And, finally:

[ Manitoba Music: Live Music, Tue, December 31, 2013 ]
[ Metro Winnipeg: Winnipeg Transit offers free rides on New Year's Eve ]
[ Safety Services Manitoba: Operation Rednose ]
Awwww, yeahhhh, New Year's Eve! New Year's Eve. Whoo! Everyone batten down your fucking hatches, because shit is about. To get. Mes-sy. NEW YEAR'S EVE.

I'm not going to lie to you fine folks; I have had one of the absolute worst calendar years in living memory, and I'm getting to the point where there's a lot of them to choose from, so that's saying something. If you happen to run into me, somewhere along that list of events above, I hope that you will be patient with me, because I will be handling New Year's as a full-contact sport and either 2013 is getting buried or I am.

But, yeah, having typed everything you've read above, I'm most certainly leaving my car at home. As warm and convenient and tempting (so tempting) as it'd likely be, I am leaving my car at home on New Year's Eve; I like drinking, and I like driving, but damn if they aren't an either-or pair of skillsets. (And really, once the anti-drunk-driving crusaders start getting pulled over for drunk driving, that should really be reason and warning enough for anybody.)

Listen, man. Hey. Listen. I know you'll think you're okay. Everyone always thinks they're okay, before they strap themselves into a quarter-ton of metal and accelerate themselves to speeds that the human brain never actually evolved to handle.

There're a lot of factors in play here, too. I get that. We as a shared society really aren't backing up all of our big talk about curbing the problem. The city shuts Transit down half an hour before closing time, the Province's carefully-guarded and wildly indefensible duopoly means taxis are staggeringly unavailable in -35°C weather while you wait outside somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30 AM, and Operation Rednose -- bless their hearts, they do what they can -- gets cancelled in extremely bad weather situations. So you won't feel like you have any choice, and you'll get behind the wheel, and something bad may or may not happen. (Not that you're worried, because penalties are still pretty tame.)

You'll be unswayable when you hit that point, so just... don't hit that point, man. This'll all be meaningless to you if you get that far gone, but if you plan just far enough ahead to catch the last free bus -- or to line someone up who'll be familiar and understanding enough to let you crash somewhere warm -- these will all be problems you won't have to worry about.

This all got a little dark, didn't it? Sorry about that, folks. Thank you for reading ManLinkWeek! We'll have one more post before the year formally concludes -- all of you who've already guessed what it is, don't spoil it for the rest of the group -- so I'll see you folks back here one more time in 2013. Catch you then!

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