He's only mayor to serve business interests. She's been gone from Winnipeg too long to know what's going on.
Only two days into the city's mayoral race, the gloves are already off, as incumbent Sam Katz and challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis traded character assassinations instead of debating policy when they had their first chance to take a crack at each other.
At a Tuesday morning campaign launch at The Forks, former NDP MP Wasylycia-Leis appeared before several hundred supporters to deliver a speech that was long on enthusiasm but short on specific promises.
After holding a moment of silence for Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Bill Clement, who died of cancer complications on Monday, Wasylycia-Leis said she wants to create "a safer, fairer, greener, better Winnipeg" for all its citizens.
She then proceeded to suggest Katz only cares about some of them.
"All Winnipeggers have a stake in the business of city hall, but city hall shouldn't just be open for business," said Wasylycia-Leis, who also said Katz has no coherent vision for the city and has disappointed a majority of Winnipeggers.
She accused Katz of allowing Winnipeg's infrastructure to decline and standing by while streets become less safe. She claimed city hall has become less transparent and less open to ordinary people. She suggested Katz is not a full-time mayor.
She also accused him of allowing services to suffer while fees increase and "hidden costs" materialize.
Asked to name those costs by reporters, she identified the proposed new fees attached to home sales, new parking meters on Selkirk Avenue and the increased cost of skating lessons.
But she refused to say whether she will increase property taxes if elected, whether she prefers bus rapid transit over light-rail transit and what she thinks of the $137.5-million deal to build a new stadium at the University of Manitoba.
"You just wait. You just stay tuned," she said, promising to unveil planks of her campaign platform between now and the Oct. 27 civic election. "I'm introducing my vision. My vision is about building a strong, inclusive Winnipeg."
Katz, to be fair, has also not committed to maintaining Winnipeg's property-tax freeze in 2011. But the incumbent mayor wasted no time slamming the former Winnipeg North MP for making campaign statements he described as misinformed.
"I guess after 13 years in Ottawa, she's been away far too long and she's out of touch. The reality is I'm a mayor for all the citizens of Winnipeg," Katz told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, noting election results from 2004 and 2006 show he has support in every ward.
Katz said he has increased city hall transparency by posting expenses online, allowing anyone to address executive policy committee on short notice and trying to reduce the number of closed-door meetings.
He said proposed new real-estate fees are not moving forward. He claimed he attends more public events than predecessor Glen Murray did. He said he fought the former Liberal government in Ottawa to devote gas-tax revenue to fix up Winnipeg's roads.
And he ridiculed Wasylycia-Leis' suggestion he has been soft on crime.
"For 13 years, you were in Ottawa, and every time a bill came to get tough on crime, you and your (NDP) colleagues voted against it," he said, addressing her through the media. "That would have given the men and women the tools they need to fight crime."
Katz suggested Wasylycia-Leis has no platform. He even ridiculed his opponent's Monday observation that the election is a marathon, noting he ran a half-marathon over the weekend and feels great.