Gord Steeves was a no-show, but the Bannock Lady says he can come another Sunday, when he has time.
"I left it open to him, whenever," said Althea Guiboche, known as the Bannock Lady for her practice of handing out bannock, water and whatever is donated, including second-hand clothes, to the homeless. "Any Sunday."
For 19 months, Guiboche has set up folding tables at 3 p.m. Sunday to hand out food to the homeless and the poor in the heart of Winnipeg's North End on Dufferin Avenue at Main Street. The typical crowd numbers about 100.
Guiboche, who was homeless for eight weeks with her five children in 2011, issued her invitation to the mayoral candidate, his wife, Lorrie Steeves, and anybody else Friday.
'It's already been done and this shows what his real opinion is behind closed doors'
She issued the invitation to help her feed the homeless after racially charged comments on Facebook by Lorrie Steeves in 2010 made headlines.
"To me, they were just trying to save face by apologizing. But actions speak louder than words, and if they were really serious, then they'd take action to amend their statements... it would have been nice of them to show up, to see life from a different perspective," Guiboche said Sunday.
A small crowd waited for Guiboche when she pulled up to her regular stop Sunday.
By the time homemade bannock, cases of water and donations of pizza, fresh potatoes, peaches and salad were laid out, the crowd had assembled into a quiet line of about 100, including parents with kids in strollers.
Friday started out like any other day on the campaign trail, but it went downhill fast for Steeves.
The lawyer and former St. Vital councillor made a public appearance to announce his plan to spend $600,000 to $800,000 to ensure an additional 20 police cadets patrol the heart of the city, over and above existing police, cadet and business improvement zone patrols and social-work efforts aimed at combating public intoxication.
'... Actions speak louder than words, and if they were really serious, then they'd take action to amend their statements... it would have been nice of them to show up'
"No person who is drunk or high will be allowed to linger downtown. No person struggling with mental illness will be left to their own devices downtown," said Steeves, promising to work with the province and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries to more rigorously enforce existing public-intoxication rules. This would require police board approval, he said.
Steeves, who has spent the past two weeks trying to position himself as the mayoral candidate of choice on the right, appeared to be gaining momentum for his campaign with a series of provocative announcements.
Within hours of his downtown-safety pledge, however, a seldom-used Twitter account circulated a screen-capture image of the 2010 Facebook post by Lorrie Steeves who expressed dissatisfaction with "getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys" in downtown Winnipeg skywalks.
The tweet was issued by an unknown account-holder, who has declined to identify him or herself.
The comments were immediately condemned, and Lorrie Steeves issued a public apology. "I don't see how arresting everyone is going to solve anything," Guiboche said Sunday.
The Steeves campaign issued a notice Sunday he would make a statement Tuesday.
'There's got to be more cops and cadets on the north side because people here are getting stabbed and mugged'
Many in line for bannock Sunday had no idea why TV crews and reporters showed up, but those who did said it was too bad Steeves hadn't made an appearance.
"If he had? I'd say it was an effort to remove that stain from his campaign," said Sam Flett. "It's already been done and this shows what his real opinion is behind closed doors," he said.
For Doreen Daniels, who pinches pennies on a disability pension, the Bannock Lady is a godsend.
As for Steeves, if the candidate feels the need for greater security downtown, he shouldn't forget the streets are mean in the North End, too, Daniels said.
Poor people and the homeless are the silent victims of violence because nobody hears about what happens with them, she added.
-- with files from Bartley Kives
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