The first chance for mayoral candidates to meet the public while sharing a stage turned out to be more about image than policy.
The forum hosted by the St. Boniface Francophone Chamber of Commerce Wednesday provided all seven candidates with equal time to introduce themselves, to answer three questions and 90 seconds to sum up.
It was a format that allowed the candidates with some declared policy statements a chance to repeat them — Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Paula Havixbeck — while the others mostly kept promising to bring needed change to city hall without actually saying how they would do that.
"The format wasn’t really conducive to a debate or learning where most of the candidates stood on issues," said Raymond Simard, the area’s Liberal MP from 2002-2008 and now a local property manager.
When asked how, as mayor, they each would spend a $150-million windfall, all the candidates responded they would address the city’s infrastructure needs.
Only Gord Steeves said he would first pay down some of the city’s long-term debt as a result of its spending on infrastructure, before focusing on additional infrastructure, especially railway underpasses and youth recreation facilities, and hiring more police.
Wasylycia-Leis repeated her earlier promise to enhance the power of the city auditor to police the activities of members of council and administration. She also said she would freeze the business tax rate at its current amount for the next four years — a promise she had made earlier in the morning.
Havixbeck said she spent the past two years on council questioning the actions of senior administrators and the executive policy committee, adding she believes she knows how to fix the problems at city hall.
"I’ve seen what’s wrong, I’ve seen how broken our city hall is," Havixbeck, the councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo, said. "I believe I’m the best person to take on (the mayor’s) job."
Simard said Robert-Falcon Ouellette made a good point for the need for vision and long-term planning, but added the message was probably lost because Ouellette was the only candidate to speak only in French.
"The television cameras were there with an opportunity to speak beyond (St. Boniface) and he missed it," Simard said.
Rapid transit wasn’t mentioned by any of the candidates.
"If we’re talking vision and planning, we want to hear about rapid transit," Simard said.
Bowman said his time as chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce revealed that the city’s business community is frustrated with city hall, adding he’s best suited to end that frustration. He managed to score the best one-liner of the session, with a direct attack on the candidates with political experience.
"If you’re happy with the status quo and the results this political establishment has given us as Winnipeggers, don’t vote for me," Bowman said. "There’s other people here who are known for that."
Simard said he thought the candidates were too negative and too focused on infrastructure.
"There’s more to a city than infrastructure," Simard said. "They talked about ethics and good practices — like someone is going to run on a campaign not to do that."
The 3 Questions Asked At Wednesday’s Mayoral Candidates Forum
- Q1: What are your ideas to foster a better business climate for Winnipeg and St. Boniface business?
- Q2: If city hall received a $150 million windfall how would you spend it?
- Q3: What specifically would you do to improve infrastructure?