Candidates’ clash boils over at forum
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The first mayoral forum of the Winnipeg municipal election took a dramatic turn, after two participants clashed and one walked out in protest.
Nine of the 15 registered candidates vying for the mayor’s chair in the October vote participated in a two-hour panel discussion Wednesday, hosted by the Good Neighbours Active Living Centre.
Idris Ademuyiwa Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Christopher Clacio, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Govind Thawani and Don Woodstock fielded a few questions from seniors in the East Kildonan area, but the forum’s most heated moments didn’t result from audience interaction.
Motkaluk and her team stormed out with a half-hour remaining in the session, after Woodstock mentioned her brother and suggested city funds are lining the pockets of construction executives. (John Motkaluk is vice-president and one of the founders of Bayview Construction Ltd.)
Earlier, Woodstock asked Motkaluk how she would “rein in” her brother as a subcontractor for municipal projects if she’s elected mayor. When Woodstock again brought up Motkaluk’s brother in response to an unrelated question from Thawani about recycling crushed rubble to fill and pave roads, Motkaluk interjected and soon after walked out.
“The only reason why we keep buying back (crushed rock) at $40 a ton is because we have to make people like Jenny’s brother money,” Woodstock said, angering Motkaluk and her campaign team members.
“I’m tired of the slander,” Motkaluk said as she and Woodstock talked over each other in front of the crowd, despite the moderator’s attempts to halt the exchange.
More than 40 seniors — the majority of them self-declared undecided voters — attended the forum. Many were hesitant to speak, but concerns that kept coming up involved addiction, homelessness, health, affordable housing, and crime.
More than once, audience members questioned candidates about how they would fulfil their promises as mayor, considering most of those issues fall into provincial or federal jurisdiction.
When Bokhari spoke in favour of establishing a supervised drug consumption site in Winnipeg, the audience questioned her about the municipal government’s role in such a project. Bokhari acknowledged provincial funding would be required.
When Adelakun suggested lowering school taxes for seniors, 73-year-old Ingrid was quick to correct him.
“You said you would lower school taxes, well, you can’t. That’s a provincial function,” she said.
“OK, maybe I can change my mind on that one, but we have to figure out how to help the seniors,” said Adelakun, a professional engineer.
Ingrid, a Good Neighbours member who declined to provide her last name, said afterward she is still undecided but she’s narrowed the possibilities.
“I know who I’m not voting for,” she said, adding she’s most concerned about homelessness and about feeling safe, particularly when walking or taking the bus downtown.
All 15 registered candidates were invited to the forum; Vincent Gabriele, Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Jessica Peebles, Rick Shone and Desmond Thomas didn’t participate.
The deadline to file nomination papers to get a candidate’s name on the ballot is Sept. 20.
Loney is the front-runner for voter Sandra Somerville, who said the most important issues to her are housing, poverty and crime.
“The core issues and city issues are so heavy right now,” Somerville said, saying the next mayor needs to have “hope that change can happen. That’s the most important thing.”
Motkaluk walking out didn’t sit well with Barbara Dixon, one audience member who had several questions for the candidates.
“I find that insulting to the audience,” Dixon said.
For her, the main issues are homelessness, wellness for seniors, and developing a city that encourages young people (including her 19-year-old grandson) to want to build their futures here. Missing from Wednesday’s conversation, Dixon said, was the practical reality of accomplishing projects within the city’s budget.
“I wish all of them would say how they’re going to do it, not just be politicians,” she said. “Where’s the how?”
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.