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This article was published 4/10/2018 (383 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The best moments were saved for last during Thursday night’s mayoral forum, when the eight candidates posed questions to each other that prompted some harsh responses.
While incumbent Brian Bowman defended his record of the past four years, the other seven challengers questioned the value of what he has accomplished.
"I’d like to know what you’ve done in the last four years to bring a better Winnipeg, a safer Winnipeg," Tim Diack, the veteran street cop, said to Bowman.
Jenny Motkaluk defended her family’s reputation when fending off questions about potential conflicts of interests if she were to be elected mayor.
The WinnipegREALTORS and Winnipeg Free Press mayoral forum in the theatre at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain was the first of the 2018 civic election campaign where candidates were allowed to question each other and it livened up what had been a staid evening.
It was the sixth mayoral forum attended by both Bowman and Motkaluk.
The two-hour event began with the candidates making opening statements and answering questions from Brad Oswald, the Free Press political and perspectives editor but it was the final 45 minutes, when the candidates were allowed to question each other, that the sparks really flew.
Don Woodstock echoed the unsupported allegations he’s made repeatedly during the campaign that city hall continues to be riddled with corruption, cronyism and projects that regularly go over budget and insisted that he was the only one to change course at city hall.
At one point late in the evening, Woodstock’s wife repeatedly yelled out from the audience as Woodstock and Motkaluk traded rebuttals.
Umar Hayat brought some much-need levity and humour to the event, as he used his time to answer and pose questions to parade on the theatre’s main stage like a late-night television host.
Bowman challenged Diack over the seemingly preferential treatment given to police officers as they are allowed to use their overtime hours towards their pensionable earnings. While Bowman has said he would end the practice and use the $1.5 million that it cost for frontline services, Bowman asked Diack if he wouldn’t end the practice, then would he offer it to the other civic unions.
Diack never answered the question.
Diack said Bowman was unable to understand the problems of the city because as a successful lawyer before being elected mayor in 2014, he had led "a charmed life." Bowman demanded an apology, which Diack later did offer.
Motkaluk denied any of her siblings would receive preferential treatment in the awarding of civic contracts, as Venkat Machiraju had implied in a news conference this week.
While some of the exchanges were nasty, it’s uncertain if any candidate had gained an advantage by night’s end.
The most recent Probe Research poll has Bowman leading Motkaluk by a two-to-one margin, and the other candidates have three per cent or less of the public’s support.
With three weeks remaining until the Oct. 24 election, none of the candidates said anything that might whittle away Bowman’s lead.
Bowman continues to run on his record, repeating his claim that city hall and Winnipeg are better for his efforts during the past years.
The challengers, meanwhile, continue to claim Winnipeggers could do better with someone else in the mayor’s chair.
Motkaluk may have summed up the situation for voters with her closing remarks.
"Do you feel safer in your home than you did four years ago? Do you worry less about the drug epidemic in this city than you did four years ago? Are you more convinced today than ever before that we should spend millions and millions of dollars on legacy projects like opening Portage and Main, are you more convinced of that than you were four years ago?
"Finally, do you really believe these are Winnipeg’s strongest days? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then I would encourage you to say yes to try something better."
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
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