Candidates interrupted each other amidst applause and catcalls as each tried to share their vision for the future of downtown Edmonton.
Don Iveson and Josh Semotiuk clashed with Kerry Diotte over comments Diotte made about the downtown arena during the CBC mayoral candidate forum on Wednesday.
The flare-up began after Iveson talked about how new sewer upgrades should get rid of a smell in downtown Edmonton.
“You know what that smell is?” Diotte asked, repeating a talking point used in his controversial campaign video that was shot at the Blue Plate Diner. “That’s the arena deal. It stinks.”
As Iveson hung his head in apparent disbelief, Semotiuk chimed in.
“Really? Really?” he said. “Come on.”
“Have you apologized to that restaurant yet?” Iveson asked. Although Blue Plate Diner owner Rima Devitt allowed the anti-arena deal video to be shot in her restaurant, she later complained that she felt “used” by the Diotte campaign.
“Maybe Don, you should have a look at, and actually see what, you’re saying,” Diotte replied as Iveson shook his head.
“Because it’s the arena deal that stinks. It stinks that we’re going to borrow $542 million and hand it over to a billionaire.”
“The question is not about the arena,” Semotiuk said. “Can we stop talking about it please? We’re talking about the downtown.”
Diotte continued, which prompted Semotiuk to jump in again.
“Stop talking about the arena. Stop talking about the arena,” he intoned as the crowd started clapping and cheering loudly in support.
The issue also sparked an intense exchange between Leibovici and Iveson earlier in the forum when an audience member wanted know why each candidate voted the way they did on the arena deal.
“The reality is if everyone had voted the way you voted from the beginning, we wouldn’t have gotten to that final vote,” Leibovici said.
“The way you voted we’d have paid more for it because you capitulated at every additional demand,” he replied, a claim that Leibovici denied.
The arena wasn’t the only issue tackled by Iveson, Diotte, Semotiuk, Karen Leibovici and Gordon Ward.
The candidates were also asked about urban sprawl, homelessness and river valley development in front of a crowd of about 400 people at Edmonton City Centre Mall.
The CBC event was the last mayoral candidates’ forum before Monday’s vote and the first to allow candidates to directly debate each other.
It was broadcast on CBC television and radio in Edmonton as well as streamed online.
There are six people running to succeed Stephen Mandel as mayor. Kristine Acielo was invited to the CBC forum but was unable to attend.