The lineup for the Downtown BIZ’s mayoral forum remains subject to debate.
David Sanders — one of four mayoral candidates not invited to the September 10 event — put out a statement Thursday morning saying the BIZ had changed its mind and he and all registered candidates can participate.
Not so, said executive director Stefano Grande.
Grande said the lineup for the forum had not changed. He couldn't explain why Sanders said all of the candidates had been invited.
"No, we haven’t revised our position" on who is invited to the forum, Grande said.
Mike Vogiatzakis said he met with BIZ officials Wednesday and was told he wouldn’t be stopped from attending the forum, but he’s not invited. If he did attend, there was no guarantee moderators would ask him any questions.
"That’s not an invitation," Vogiatzakis said. "I show up and what if they don’t ask me any questions. No thanks."
The Downtown BIZ came under scrutiny last week when the uninvited candidates at the time — Michel Fillion, Sanders and Vogiatzakis — complained they had been excluded from the group’s mayoral forum.
The Downtown BIZ only invited five mayoral candidates — Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Gord Steeves, Brian Bowman, Paula Havixbeck and Robert-Falcon Ouellette.
Grande said last week that the BIZ invited who they considered to be the top five candidates and that there wasn’t enough time for all mayoral canadidates to participate.
All declared candidates — now counting nine with the entry late last week of Hazem Aslan — were invited to and participated in a mayoral forum held Tuesday night by the Manitoba Filipino Business Council.
The first mayoral candidate debate of the season was held in mid-June by the St. Boniface Francophone Chamber of Commerce, which invited all seven of the declared candidates at the time.
Grande said although media attention has focused on the Downtown BIZ forum, at least one other forum has excluded some candidates.
The Downtown BIZ late Thursday afternoon released a statement to the Free Press, confirming Vogiatzakis’ understanding of how the four not-invited candidates will be treated.
"If Mr. Sanders or any other candidates not (invited) express an interest in attending the forum as well, we will gladly provide a spot on the stage for them and our moderators Shannon Sampert (Winnipeg Free Press) and Richard Cloutier (CJOB), who at their discretion, will direct questions when appropriate," said Jason Syvixay, the BIZ’s managing director.
Sanders said he still plans to attend the Downtown BIZ event and expects the moderators would treat him as fairly as the formally invited candidates, adding he expects to receive his share of questions during the event.