Diversity in spotlight at mayoral debate

Motkaluk only candidate absent at forum


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Winnipeg would receive more foreign investment if it had a foreign-born mayor, a candidate for mayor told the crowd at a forum on multiculturalism and integration Friday night.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/10/2018 (1576 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg would receive more foreign investment if it had a foreign-born mayor, a candidate for mayor told the crowd at a forum on multiculturalism and integration Friday night.

“The only reason we’ve not had foreign investment is because we don’t have enough immigrants elected,” said Don Woodstock, who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean.

“Until we change that, it won’t happen,” he said at the forum organized by the Pakistan and Muslim community at the Grand Mosque on Waverley Street.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Seven of eight mayoral candidates debate issues at Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque on Friday. Jenny Motkaluk was unable to attend.

Seven of the eight mayoral candidates were there — incumbent Brian Bowman, Umar Hayat, Tim Diack, Doug Wilson, Venkat Machiraju, Woodstock and Ed Ackerman.

A press release from the organizers said all the candidates confirmed they’d take part in the event, but Bowman’s main rival, Jenny Motkaluk, didn’t attend. Her campaign manager said Friday that they provided ample notice to organizers that she would not be there.

“We appreciated the invitation and look forward to participating in future events that engage all candidates in vigorous discussion beyond a series of prepared statements,” Motkaluk’s campaign said in email.

The candidates were asked questions such as if elected mayor, would they push for permanent residents to have the right to vote in civic elections and what would they do to attract foreign investment to Winnipeg. Woodstock said he doesn’t believe Canadian-born political leaders — or mainstream media — are interested in dealing with foreign-born Winnipeggers.

“They don’t want us at the table,” he said. “They’re offended at having you around,” he said, offering the example of a radio station that accused him of harassment after he called and asked for news coverage.

“Winnipeg has always been a trading city,” Bowman said. During his first four years as mayor, he said, he attracted investment to Winnipeg from inside Canada, touting the $35-million investment from video game giant Ubisoft after his trade trip to Montreal. Bowman said he was one of Canada’s big-city mayors who lobbied the U.S. during NAFTA negotiations and that he wants to work with the province and Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, the federal trade diversification minister, to promote Winnipeg internationally.

Hayat, who immigrated from Pakistan and has been the biggest proponent of foreign investment among the mayoral candidates, drew some of the loudest applause when he introduced himself in his mother tongue.

He told the crowd of 100, many from Pakistan, his hopes for wooing investors.

“People in Pakistan have billions of dollars,” Hayat said. “We do need proper planning… and we need to be showing how friendly we are. We have much room to grow.”

When asked if the candidates would push for permanent residents — who pay taxes and receive services — to be allowed to vote in civic elections, the candidates were all for it — except Bowman, who wasn’t sure.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Women peek into the mayoral debate at Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque on Friday.

He said city councils in Vancouver and Toronto have voted to call on their provincial legislatures to change the voting laws to let permanent residents vote in municipal elections, but B.C. and Ontario haven’t followed through to allow it.

“I need to research and better understand what the rationale was for the provincial governments not making a change,” he said. “You want to have a good understanding,” Bowman said.

“I appreciate the fact that permanent residents are Winnipeggers — they’re our friends and neighbours and colleagues… I appreciate the desire of citizens who pay taxes to be enfranchised.”

The question of whether only Canadian citizens should be allowed to vote in municipal elections may come up again at a mayoral forum Saturday organized by and for newcomers. The Got Citizenship? Go Vote! forum is at 2 p.m. at Hugh John MacDonald School gym, 567 Bannatyne Ave.


Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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