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This article was published 16/9/2014 (1376 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A ban on garburators, allowances for urban poultry and a radical expansion of community gardens were proposed by Winnipeg's mayoral hopefuls at the first all-candidates' forum about food-security issues ever held in the city.
Six of seven mayoral hopefuls attended Politics on the Plate, a Tuesday evening forum organized by the non-profit organization Food Matters Manitoba, held at the University of Winnipeg's Eckhardt Grammaté Hall.
The 90-minute debate, moderated by CBC Radio's Ismaila Alfa, saw candidates stress their credentials on issues such as the absence of fresh produce in inner-city neighbourhoods, the inability of people living in poverty to afford food and land-use rules preventing urban agriculture.
'The rich get organics, the poor get diabetes'— mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis
Lawyer Brian Bowman, university administrator Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck all cited their childhoods growing up in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Booking agent Michel Fillion noted his rural upbringing. Former bureaucrat David Sanders mentioned his son's credentials as a founder of vegan restaurant Mondragon. Former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis described her North End neighbourhood as a food desert.
Former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves was the only candidate to decline an invitation to the forum.
The candidates who attended all said they supported efforts such as the creation of a food-policy council to advise the city on food-security issues and working with other levels of government to combat poverty within the city.
"The rich get organics, the poor get diabetes," said Wasylycia-Leis, inverting the title of a widely distributed article excerpted from Mark Winne's 2008 book Closing the Food Gap.
Support for subsidies to help open inner-city grocers was not unanimous, however. Ouellette said he favoured delivery carts to bring produce to residents, while Sanders favoured improved transit to allow people without cars to reach grocery stores.
Havixbeck made some of the boldest pledges of the night, promising to end bottled-water sales in city-owned facilities. She also pledged to amend development rules to ban garburators from being installed in new residences, a move that would reduce nutrient loads into the city's waste-water treatment system.
Bowman promised to create 1,000 community gardens during his first term in office and to hold an annual address about food security along the lines of the state-of-the-city address hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.
Wasylycia-Leis said she would try to partner Winnipeg chefs with local producers to stimulate economic growth. Ouellette said urban residents should be encouraged not only to grow their own food, but also sell it.
Sanders said allowances should be made for backyard poultry.
"I would be in favour of having chickens within the city, but in such a way that it does not cause problems for neighbours," he said, adding changes to land-use rules must be introduced carefully.
Fillion, meanwhile, pledged to create after-dinner educational TV programming to help Winnipeggers learn about composting. "Food is a gift from God," he said, imploring Winnipeggers to "follow his word."
Bowman also said he and his wife "don't have the confidence" to bathe their children in city water when it comes out of the tap brown. He called for independent testing of city water.
Bowman, Havixbeck, Wasylycia-Leis and Ouellete will gather again this evening at the Free Press News Café for a mayoral forum about urban design and planning. Steeves has so far declined to attend the event.
Updated on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:21 AM CDT: Replaces photo