08 October 2009

Simms in PACSW’s gun sights

Popular and influential talk show host Randy Simms is now firmly in the gun sights of the provincial government’s official advisory organization on women’s issues.

The Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women is planning an opinion piece for the province’s newspapers and is encouraging people on the PACSW e-mail listserv to join in by writing pieces of their own for local papers and calling both Simms and Bill Rowe on air to voice their opinions.

The controversy centres on remarks Simms made Tuesday to Long Harbour deputy mayor Ed Bruce which didn’t make a headline until Simms was challenged on Wednesday, on air, by newbie St. John’s councillor Sheilagh O’Leary.

An e-mail Thursday from PACSW communications director Elaine Condon described her having the “unfortunate task” of listening to Simms’ show Thursday and hearing what she described as “blatant sexism rear its head over and over.”

The e-mail also included the text of a front-page Telegram story by Alisha Morrissey. That’s not online but an earlier BP post linked to an shorter version of the story that appeared yesterday.

What the Telegram story on either day didn’t make clear is that O’Leary was working on the basis of a half-baked version of Simms’ remarks posted on a local blog. 

But as it turns out, the Signal writer also got a half-baked version of events:

I didn't hear it myself and heard it from a third party I trusted. I had never done that before, even for a blog, and I definitely learned my lesson.

Anyway, the transcription is up on Signal now, with a little apology.

And indeed the correct version and an apology has been posted.

The only question that remains is whether or not the half-backed version of Simms’ remarks fed to Signal and O’Leary was an honest misunderstanding in the first place or a deliberate misrepresentation to advance some unknown political agenda.

Simms may well have earned the hatred of some locals for criticising an event featuring only women municipal candidates in the middle of the election. He pointed out that such an event gave an unfair boost some candidates based solely on gender during the campaign and was clearly not in keeping with an effort to encourage more women to come forward as candidates.  Simms might now be targeted for payback as a result of his earlier criticism.

The 11 members of the PACSW governing board are appointed by the cabinet under the Status of Women Advisory Council Act. Under the Act, its permanent staff are covered by the Public Service Pensions Act.

The minister responsible for the status of women is natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale.