Mayoral candidates blasted for skipping forum
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/10/2022 (239 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An inner-city shelter’s forum for mayoral candidates had a big problem — almost half of the candidates didn’t show.
Glen Murray, Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Jenny Motkaluk and Rick Shone failed to participate at the event, organized by Art City and Studio Central and held at Siloam Mission.
Shaun Loney, who is third according to a recent Probe poll, decided to attend, as did Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Chris Clacio and Don Woodstock.
The lack of a full slate of candidates irked those who showed up to question candidates about a major issue in the city, dealing with the homeless crisis.
During question period, Cindy Murdoch, a volunteer at the forum, said Murray lost her vote by his absence. She had phoned Murray’s campaign office in front of the candidates to ask why he had not attended, especially after he promised to increase funding to outreach programs and non-profit housing organizations.
Murdoch — a former Winnipeg School Division trustee who was removed from the board in February — said she called three times before the forum and was sent to voicemail, and wanted to try again in front of voters and the media. She said a campaign manager picked up the fourth time.
“He’s very progressive, and I really supported all of that. I 100 per cent expected him to be here,” she said.
“So when he wasn’t here, and I showed up to offer coffee (to guests), I started calling his campaign office. All I was getting was his voicemail telling me about how much he cares about the inner city, and the poverty and this and that. And here we are, at Siloam Mission, and he can’t show up. It made me very angry.”
A spokesperson for Murray’s campaign said he missed the forum to attend a “major multicultural event involving several hundred people.”
“Glen has attended every single mayoralty forum so far and was a street outreach worker in this area of poverty and takes this work very seriously,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Some candidates took shots at their absent peers, including Ouellette.
“I love Charleswood. I love St. James. I think they’re wonderful areas, but I don’t think we need another mayor from Charleswood and I don’t think we need another mayor from St. James,” he said, referring to St. James councillor Gillingham and Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councilor Kevin Klein.
How to ease the persistent issue of homelessness and its many social issues was the theme of the forum, which had about two dozen attendees.
Loney said while on the campaign trail he had encountered people who were out of work because of difficulty being connected with employers, something he said he would work on.
“I think Winnipeg’s defining issue is our ability to connect people who most need the work with the work that most needs to be done,” he said.
Bokhari spoke in favour of safe injection sites and reiterated her promise to reallocate 10 per cent of the police budget to social services that would, among other things, work with homeless Winnipeggers.
“Yes, we want to give people jobs, but we have to also address the fact that some of the people we’re giving jobs to and we want to have jobs for, they are not in a space that they can even accept a job,” she said. “So we need to be realistic.”
Ouellette, who said he was homeless as a child, said focusing on long-term recovery for addiction, bringing safe injection sites to Winnipeg, and focusing less on policing would make city streets safer.
“When we think about homelessness, what do we do? Invariably, we invite the police to come in, he said.
Adelakun, an engineer, presented a printout of 3-D mark-ups of affordable housing units he’d like to build should he become mayor Oct. 26.
“It’s not only what type of housing we’re going to have, we’re going to build some, we are going to make some existing houses that are no longer in use right now,” he said.
Clacio, who arrived 30 minutes late, said he’d like to work with municipalities around Winnipeg to gain more bargaining power with the provincial and federal government to bring in social services such as a safe injection site.
“If we leverage our relationships with (the) small municipalities, we can… build the demand that we need to create a safe injection site,” he said.
Woodstock took aim at departing mayor Brian Bowman, who he said should have done more to ease homelessness. He said it would be cheaper overall to address the root causes of homelessness than continue using Band-Aid solutions.
“I’m thinking that the guy would at least come to the table and say, ‘Hey, let me help my people,’ right? But no,” he said. “I want to help everybody because everybody deserves to have a roof over their head, because why? I’m selfish. It’s cheaper. That’s my selfish motive.”
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, October 6, 2022 9:40 PM CDT: Tweaks lede to reflect numbers
Updated on Friday, October 7, 2022 8:58 AM CDT: Updates cutline, amends paragraph about Cindy Murdoch
Updated on Friday, October 7, 2022 10:28 AM CDT: Clarifies that event was organized by Art City and Studio Central and held at Siloam Mission