Everyone's seen them: late-night infomercials pushing questionable products, promising miracle results for things such as hair regrowth or weight loss; magnetic bracelets or vibrating belts. Each of them featuring testimonials from people who claim to have used the product, but are actually actors.
That's what the City of Edmonton has come to under its new mayor, Don Iveson.
Recently, Edmonton City Hall released a YouTube video promoting Iveson's plans for the city's light rail transit (LRT). Iveson's campaign teams have proven to have a talent for producing clever YouTube videos, including a Lego model of Iveson's dream city. And perhaps that's Iveson's biggest problem as mayor so far: he seems intent on treating the city like his own personal Lego model, right down to the little plastic figures he can put anywhere he wants.
Including in the middle of one of his YouTube videos.
It turns out that Mayor Iveson hand-picked three known pro-LRT activists, put them in his video, and then passed them off as LRT passengers approached at random to give their views on LRT expansion. Naturally, their views on expanding the LRT were quite glowing.
And really, why wouldn't they be? They're already riding the train.
For his own part, Iveson insists he hasn't deceived or misled anyone. “I don’t think it was misleading at all,” he said. “I think it reflects what Edmontonians are thinking."
And of course he'd think that. As Lorne Gunter points out, in a poll on a city-run pro-LRT website, not only is "yes" the only option available, but a resounding "YES!" The website makes it rather laborious to give any answer other than this resounding "YES." Iveson just isn't listening to anyone else. More than that, he's going out of his way not to listen.
“I think if these people were being told to say something that they didn’t believe, which isn’t what happened, then there would be a concern,” Iveson added. “But these are Edmontonians, these are their views about LRT, and I think it is good to capture those and broadcast them whenever we can.”
Anyone who may happen to disagree? Not so much.
And of course in hand-picking the sources of these testimonials Iveson may have refrained from scripting them. But don't mistake this for anything other than a pre-decided conclusion. They may not have been actors -- and perhaps if they were actors they'd be better than the ones on late-night infomercials -- for all practical purposes they might as well have been.
That's what municipal politics has come to under Don Iveson: akin to a late-night infomercial with actors hocking a product. At least this much is in his favour: the product he has these people selling at least has some merits, even if his method of salesmanship is embarrassingly hokey.