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Without Professor Popsicle, U of M debate cancelled

Winnipeg South Conservative candidate Gordon Giesbrecht in Winnipeg on Friday, July 31, 2015.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg South Conservative candidate Gordon Giesbrecht in Winnipeg on Friday, July 31, 2015.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/9/2015 (1484 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/9/2015 (1484 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Conservative candidate’s decision to pull out of a debate at the University of Manitoba has led to the forum being abruptly cancelled.

Winnipeg South Tory candidate Gordon Giesbrecht, a professor at the university, declined to attend the debate last week, leaving organizers in the lurch as the student’s interest in attending the debate waned, explained organizers.

Astitwa Thapa, the vice-president of external relations with the University of Manitoba Students’ Union — which organized the event — said without Giesbrecht the union felt there was no point in holding the debate.

"When Giesbrecht cancelled, it was very shocking, we thought he would’ve said yes… students were not interested in listening to the other progressive candidates attack each other," he said Tuesday, noting it was the union's executive who made the decision.

"The students wanted to hear his opinions, he is a very divisive person, he is a famous researcher, Professor Popsicle, and when he refused I was so disappointed that he wouldn’t come to a student union debate."

Giesbrecht made the decision not to attend the same week a controversial video in which he compared the Holocaust to abortion surfaced.

The debate was supposed to take place on Oct. 5, and the three other candidates running in the riding — Terry Duguid (Liberal), Adam Smith (Green), and Brianne Goertzen (NDP) — agreed to attend.

The event was to be moderated by Paul Thomas, professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba, who said he was "frustrated" by the decision to cancel the event.

"It is not just how many people have their eyes and ears tuned to the events, there would have undoubtedly been people there from the different parties anxious to support their candidates, it is not like we would have played to nobody," he said. "I worry now, as with national televised debates, that if one party indicates they want no part in the event, then it doesn’t go ahead."

NDP candidate Brianne Goertzen accused the UMSU of being "bullied by the Harper government – a government that has refused to participate in public forums in a meaningful way."

In an open letter sent Tuesday evening, Goertzen said even without Giesbrecht, students, professors and staff deserve to hear about the platforms of the New Democratic Party, Green Party and Liberal Party.

"In a time where youth voter turnout is at an all-time low one would expect the student union of the largest post-secondary institution in Manitoba to encourage democratic participation through hosting a Federal candidates debate," she said.

In Winnipeg, while some Conservative candidates have shown up to events, such as Harpreet Turka as a Winnipeg North forum, others have been absent.

Earlier this month, a fiery debate for Winnipeg Centre candidates was skipped by Tory candidate Allie Szarkiewicz and Conservative MP Lawrence Toet skipped a debate for Elmwood-Transcona last week.

An all-candidates’ debate for Winnipeg South Centre is scheduled for tomorrow at the Asper Jewish Community Campus and Conservative MP Joyce Bateman has agreed to attend.

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 8:48 PM CDT: Adds comments from Brianne Goertzen

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