Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst must have been channelling U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden during an on-air conversation with CBC Winnipeg Radio Noon host Marilyn Mackie earlier this week.
Following news that the provincial government was to offer financial help to Winnipeg Jets owner True North via a new gaming centre attached to the MTS Centre, our mayor went on radio to suggest that such a venue could work well here in Brandon too.
To be fair, for much of the interview, she handled herself pretty well. She outlined the fact that the provincial government needs to sign on to the idea and addressed successfully any concerns raised over the fact that Brandon rejected a casino in two previous plebiscites.
But she fell down rather hard when Mackie began a line of questioning regarding stated plans to build a downtown hotel and entertainment complex, as part of the city’s Roadmap for Growth 2014 Strategic Plan — and how a gaming centre would fit that plan. Here’s a transcript of that part of the conversation:
DECTER HIRST — “We’ve got property available where we’re going to be building a hotel. This would be a marvellous addition to the downtown. It would draw people downtown and still be of a scale manageable for a downtown centre.”
MACKIE — “What’s the hotel that’s going in on that property?
DECTER HIRST — “We’re just in that process now. We’re in that property acquisition phase.”
MACKIE — “Would people running that hotel be interested in a gaming centre?”
DECTER HIRST — “I think they would find that very appealing because certainly it would enhance the guest experience at the hotel.”
MACKIE — “Have you put it to them yet?”
DECTER HIRST — “Well, we’ve got to talk to the province and that always seems to be a big stumbling block, in that what’s good for Winnipeg isn’t necessarily good for Brandon. I’m hoping that we can convince them otherwise.”
Unfortunately, listeners were left with the impression that a some kind of hotelier has already either come forward or has been chosen and that plans are underway to start building some kind of complex — something that just isn’t the case.
Several hours after that live radio interview, city manager Scott Hildebrand was forced to issue a press release to clarify the mayor’s comments and to categorically state that “the City of Brandon is not in negotiations with any particular hotel company for a downtown hotel venue.”
Whether in the heat of the moment she simply wasn’t listening to the questions, or misunderstood what Mackie was asking, well only Decter Hirst knows that one for sure. But she clearly went off message. It appears to be an innocent mistake, but her shoot-from-the-hip style — a la Joe Biden — has once again given the mayor’s critics more ammunition with which to pound her.
Decter Hirst is hardly a career or professional politician — she’s certainly not polished enough for that and that’s fine. Folksy wins over people, too. Such is the case for politicians like Biden, who has become well-known for making rather large public speaking gaffes of his own.
But Decter Hirst has made a few too many public blunders in this manner, which have landed her in hot water more than once. We don’t wish to see our Brandon politicians fail and we take no pleasure in watching such cringe-worthy moments — they’re just not good for this community.
We believe she needs to be a bit more careful when representing this city on a provincial, national and local stage — less shoot from the hip and more adherence to the city’s core message — and that requires learning from her mistakes.
Like this one.