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This article was published 11/10/2018 (744 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brian Bowman is the only mayoral candidate who wants to see Portage and Main reopened, Jenny Motkaluk threw away her only chance to ask the incumbent a direct question, and questions were raised -- but not answered -- about who paid for Bowman's trip to Colorado to honour fallen firefighters.
Thursday night's mayoral debate on CBC Manitoba focused on crime, transportation, and how to keep young people from leaving Winnipeg.
At one point, all candidates were given tiny "yes" and "no" signs, which they could hold up to answer four questions. When the question was raised whether, if elected Oct. 24, they would reopen the Portage Avenue-Main Street intersection to pedestrians – Bowman was the only one of the eight to hold up a yes sign.
However, due to the debate's rules only two candidates could answer why they held up their signs, leaving fringe candidates Ed Ackerman and Umar Hayat to explain their reasons.
Ackerman said it was his opinion – but admitted he has no proof – that because one of the area's major property owners, the Richardson family, wants it open, it will be reopened.
Hayat said there would be "huge traffic jams," if pedestrians were allowed to cross the long-barricaded intersection.
Bowman, who promised during the 2014 election to open Portage and Main, has said he would respect the results of the referendum question on the 2018 ballot whether to reopen it or not. Motkaluk has been staunchly opposed to opening the intersection to pedestrians.
Meanwhile, after weeks of Motkaluk saying she wanted to debate Bowman 1-on-1, deriding his decision to attend only debates where all of the candidates are invited, she instead turned to Hayat and asked him what he would do first as mayor. He responded he would slash civic grants to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to $600,000 from $5.6 million.
When it was Bowman's turn, he also turned to Hayat – but the incumbent used the opportunity to ask the candidate his opinion about what Motkaluk's $1.2 billion in campaign promises would have on the city's finances. (Bowman has said Motkaluk has yet to explain how she would pay for them.)
After a commercial break – during which Motkaluk convinced debate organizers she should be allowed to rebut Bowman's question – she said one example would be scrapping rapid transit construction and transferring the money into more regular Winnipeg Transit buses and routes.
Later, when it was candidate and current Winnipeg police officer Tim Diack's turn, he asked Bowman whether it was the city's taxpayers or the firefighters union which paid for his trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., last year to take part in a ceremony for fallen firefighters. Part of the ceremony honoured Jack Nicol, a former Winnipeg fire department captain.
Bowman replied he believed it came from his own office budget, and he would double-check after the debate. When pressed, Diack admitted he had no proof the union paid for the trip, he was just curious.
The final question posed to the candidates was what would they do keep young people from leaving the city.
Some of the answers:
Diack: "I'll make sure they want to stay here because they feel safe."
Hayat: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."
Venkat Machiraju: "A city of equal opportunity for all."
Ackerman: "Dam the Panama Canal."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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