MAYORAL candidate Gord Steeves tried for the second consecutive day to link front-runner Judy Wasylycia-Leis to the unpopular NDP provincial government, and said if elected she would be powerless to defend the city's interests in discussions with the province.
Wasylycia-Leis's office dismissed the allegations as a "public tantrum."
Standing in front of the steps of the legislative building Wednesday afternoon, Steeves said a member of Premier Greg Selinger's staff was working with Wasylycia-Leis's campaign and his presence would be inappropriate if she won.
Steeves acknowledged he doesn't know if Selinger is working on Wasylycia-Leis's behalf, but there was, he said, a link between the two.
"The relationship between the mayor and premier is a negotiation," Steeves said. "If, after the election, the premier can look you in the eye and say, 'Remember, I was the one who got you elected,' the relationship cannot work."
Peter Dalla-Vicenza, Wasylycia-Leis's director of communications, confirmed he is employed as a policy analyst with the Selinger policy management secretariat, though on unpaid leave for the duration of the civic-election campaign.
Steeves said he probably has PC and Liberal party members working on his campaign. But the presence of someone from Selinger's office on Wasylycia-Leis's campaign team, he said, was inappropriate.
Steeves staged his Tuesday-morning news conference in front of the front-runner's campaign office and tried to link her to Howard Pawley's NDP government of the mid- to late-1980s, when she briefly served as a provincial cabinet minister. That administration, he said, was "Judy's government."
Steeves renewed the comparison Wednesday, linking Wasylycia-Leis -- a former NDP MP and MLA who has been retired for several years -- to the financial record of Selinger's government and its broken promise not to raise the PST. He accused her of promoting financial policies that would saddle the city with more debt.
"There is no discernible difference between Judy and the NDP," Steeves said. "Judy and the NDP are now trying to take control of the city of Winnipeg, as they are already in control of the provincial government."
He challenged Wasylycia-Leis to publicly distance herself from the provincial government.
From the outset of her campaign, Wasylycia-Leis has said she has no reason to hide her links to the NDP.
Late Wednesday afternoon, her office said in a statement: "Judy has and will always stand up for the city's interest when dealing with any level of government. However, she rejects the approach that Gord Steeves follows. He would rather score short-term points with public tantrums than work for a better deal."
In his comments, Steeves said Wasylycia-Leis will have to impose even greater tax increases to cover the increased borrowing costs that will result from a decision by credit rating agency Moody's to downgrade the city's long-term financial forecast.
He denied he was running a scare campaign against Wasylycia-Leis, a reference to Sam Katz's tactics four years ago, when he launched a phone campaign with the message seniors would lose their homes if she were elected mayor.