The Strand Project, a worthwhile arts and culture venue, has been the target of an increasingly nasty and dysfunctional series of attacks.
The latest in the Manitoba legislature itself set new lows in bad behaviour. The attacks — laughably inaccurate and borderline libellous — centre on a perverted sense of what conflict of interest means.
How exactly does a non-profit group such as the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society, with unpaid staff working openly to promote a community project, create a conflict?
A conflict requires a financial gain, of which there has been none. Nor could there be in such a non-profit system.
All of the supporters of the Strand, myself included, have put thousands of hours of volunteer labour into this project.
Rather than being paid, reaping any financial reward, we have donated money to keep it afloat, in addition to countless hours of volunteer work.
To be attacked for working for the community is wrong in every sense of the word.
Few know of the countless hours that Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell has spent fixing leaks, bailing water almost single-handed to keep the Strand from collapsing into rubble.
Even if folks don’t think this is the best project it still does not justify an attack on those who do, who work hard to promote what they believe is good for this community.
This project is strongly supported by the arts community and would breath new life into culture in this city and into the downtown core.
It is a non-profit venture supported by unpaid staff. The attacks on it have been inaccurate, politically motivated and frankly cruel.
Now its success is compromised — a sad state of affairs.
Furthermore, in breaking the unwritten rule and attacking a politician’s spouse, the Progressive Conservative MLA from Brandon West, Reg Helwer, has moved the political discourse into an ugly place.
Politicians, like all people, have personal lives and the rule has always been that what is personal stays that way.
The press generally avoids mention of things personal, and rightly so.
In bringing it up in the House, Helwer has put it firmly into the public domain and the press was then required to report it.
This makes fair, perhaps inevitable, a return volley from the government benches.
If the personal lives of members become fair game for a public airing, then things will become very ugly, very fast.
I hope that reason will prevail and that the Tory leader will rein in and censure his member. I also hope that the NDP government will refrain from picking off the low-hanging fruit of various opposition members’ indiscretions.
As far as Brandon goes, the long-standing good co-operation between members of the NDP and the Conservatives is likely history — to the detriment not only of this project but of the entire community.
Finally this could likely be a career limiting event for Mr. Helwer. The game is not played this way, nor should it be — even a newcomer like him should know that.
As far as the Strand Project, if folks want this project to go forward they should speak up now and speak loudly, or it will be lost.
DR. DERRY DECTER
» Ed. Note: Decter is a BFMAS board member.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 4, 2012