Winnipeg mayoral candidate Gord Steeves believes people who panhandle at intersections do so for “economic reasons” and do not have mental health issues that prevent them from getting jobs.

“By and large my experience with intersection panhandling is that these are healthy able bodied men,” he said during a press event on Friday. “I don’t have any evidence that by and large these people are suffering from any mental illness.”

Steeves made the statements at a campaign announcement, pledging to put an end to homeless people asking for money at intersections if he’s elected.

“These people are mostly men they stand in intersections for long periods of time. They often have funny signs and talk about what they’re using the money for. They are in all likelihood perfectly capable of working,” he said.

Steeves said he wants to ask council to change both the streets bylaw and the neighbourhood livability bylaw to “prohibit solicitation from someone who is sitting in a car.”

But there is already a bylaw on the city books that prohibits doing just that.

It says, “No person shall panhandle from an occupant of a motor vehicle which is: (a) parked; (b) stopped at a traffic control signal; or (c) standing temporarily for the purpose of loading or unloading.”

Steeves also said he wants the city to better enforce bylaws against people who panhandle.

Lorrie and Gord Steeves

Gord Steeves' wife, Lorrie Steeves, was recently under fire for comments she posted to Facebook Feb. 11, 2010, saying she was "tired of getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys in the skywalks." (Facebook)

Women fearful, Steeves says

Steeves said “numerous women” have told him “they are at least somewhat fearful” when someone tries to panhandle at intersections.

The mayoral candidate landed in hot water earlier this month for racially-charged comments his wife, Lorrie Steeves made in 2010 about her encounters with panhandlers.

Steeves later defended his wife, saying he supports her and stands with her.