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Mayoral wannabes spew clichés at forum

Talk of transparency, a few zingers 'highlight' night

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"Children are our future." Check.

"A mayor must both lead and inspire." Yep, we heard that one too.

The clichés flew faster than a spiked volleyball Tuesday evening at Sisler High School's spartan gym, where the Manitoba Filipino Business Council held a forum featuring all nine Winnipeg mayoral wannabes.

Each was given one or two minutes to answer four or five questions. Here are some of the stellar and less-than-stellar moments:

Meatiest policy announcement

Funeral director Mike Vogiatzakis, who's been struggling to elevate his campaign above fringe status, came up with a surprisingly specific response to the question of how to improve Winnipeg's tendering process in order to improve transparency at city hall.

Vogiatzakis said he'd publish responses to all city bids online and not just at a bid opening attended by proponents.

While this would create a chill on bids -- and wouldn't even be possible when proprietary information is involved -- it's a provocative suggestion.

What would the rest do about transparency?

The question about bidding was the most substantive of the night. Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck repeated her pledge to eliminate executive policy committee in an effort to combat closed-door decision-making. Former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves repeated his pledge to bring back EPC Secretariat, an abolished policy office, to create a firewall between council and the public service.

Management consultant David Sanders said he'd fill in the procurement-process gaps identified by recent city audits. University of Manitoba administrator Robert-Falcon Ouellette repeated his promise to ensure all campaign donations are made public.

Former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she'd ensure "special interests" have no sway at city hall -- prompting Twitter to erupt in comments about the support she receives from labour unions.

Lawyer Brian Bowman noted his expertise in the field of privacy and access to information, while Handi-Transit owner-operator Hazem Aslan said he would simply ensure everyone follows existing rules.

Booking agent Michel Fillion, however, suggested he possesses a unique skill that can help clean up city hall.

"I can smell a rat a mile away," he said, forcefully.

Most pointed talking point

On several occasions, Bowman noted he's not a professional politician and urged voters to elect someone else if they're happy with Winnipeg's status quo.

While the lawyer has used this language throughout his campaign, he retooled it for a jab at Wasylycia-Leis when he mentioned how much he's enjoying meeting people on the campaign trail.

"I understand why Judy has been campaigning since the '80s, because it's a lot of fun," he said.

Best campaign catchphrase

In his concluding remarks, Ouellette said the most important factor in improving Winnipeg is "city planning, city planning and long-term city planning."

The Awkward Silence Award

When asked about his track record working with Winnipeg's "ethnic population," Fillion decided to improvise.

"I live downtown," he said. "How much more ethnic can you get?"

The discomfort lasted mere moments, but felt like eons.

What's on the wall, Gord?

When you lob questions at nine candidates for two hours, someone will inevitably get bored.

That ingnominious fate befell Steeves, who was seated at the right side of a long table and could be seen scanning the championship banners on the north wall of the Sisler gym.

Another victory for the Spartans; another failure for democracy.

Vote for experience

During the concluding remarks, Sanders chose to address an earlier question about what he'd do for Winnipeg's older citizens.

"I think we should have a senior on city council. Hey, I'm a senior!" he offered, garnering a few laughs.

Steeves then proved he was in fact paying attention -- at least for part of the night -- by surmising septuagenarian Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith may in fact be a senior as well.

Or just vote for my ride

When the time came for Vogiatzakis to wrap up, he noted he has a spiffy "42-foot motor home" that functions as his campaign vehicle.

This opened up an opportunity for a jab at the only mayoral candidate who lives outside city limits.

"When that thing is parked at St. Vital shopping centre, I hope you're not sleeping in it," Steeves said to Vogiatzakis.

Prepare for eight more weeks of this, folks.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 7:17 AM CDT: replaces B&W photos with colour

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