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This article was published 16/9/2015 (1551 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A fiery debate in the city’s downtown saw Winnipeg Centre candidates go toe-to-toe on a variety of issues from poverty, to transit, to which candidate actually lives in the riding.
It was standing room only on both the first and second floor of Portage Place Wednesday evening, as more than 400 people packed into the shopping centre to watch longtime New Democrat MP Pat Martin defend his record to Liberal candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Green Party candidate Don Woodstock and Communist Party of Canada candidate Darrell Rankin. Newly minted Conservative challenger Allie Szarkiewicz did not attend the debate.
Her absence was noted by Martin in both his opening and closing remarks.
"I want to take a few seconds to point what is missing here today…what is missing that there is no one here from the ruling party, from the Conservative party of Canada and I think that is a disgrace," he told the audience at Portage Place to a large round of applause.
Barbs came from all the candidates during the two-hour debate, including from former mayoral candidate Ouellette challenging Martin who chastised the Liberals for supporting Bill C-51.
"Why didn’t you do more, to stop it, why didn’t you filibuster?" Ouellette said, accusing the NDP of using the bill to strike fear in Canadians.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg transit driver Don Woodstock continued to hammer Martin and Ouellette on the fact that neither live in the riding.
"I am the only candidate who can actually vote in Winnipeg Centre," he said.
The rhetoric began earlier Wednesday afternoon after Ouellette reignited false rumours that Martin lived in Salt Spring Island in British Columbia by sending a sarcastic press release noting Martin had in the past threatened to sue anyone who continued to spread the rumour.
In the release, it poses the question: "It is true that on July 30 2013, the NDP Association in BC for Saltspring (sic) Island invited guests to hear 'an Ottawa update from Salt Spring's unofficial MP, Pat Martin,'" along with other references to Martin's alleged connection with the Gulf Island. Each reference was followed by: "But Pat Martin does not live on Saltspring (sic) Island."
It was Woodstock who pushed Martin’s buttons the furthest after he asked him since becoming MP in 1997, how often he helps people who walk down Sargent Street, near his office, looking for assistance.
Martin fired back at the idea he doesn’t assist his community and at the perceived insult to his staff.
Social issues came up frequently, such as the affordable housing crisis downtown, which Martin used to remind the audience that it was the Liberals who made the decision in 2003 stop building federal social housing.
Martin noted the NDP is the only party with a costed plan, noting it may be more modest than the Liberals, but promises a balanced budget. Ouellette repeated his party’s pledge to spend $20 billion on transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure, while running a deficit.
As the debate turned to the audience question and answer section, residents clamoured for a chance to ask a question and about 14 never got a chance before the debate came to a close.