Nine mayoral hopefuls squared off in a debate Tuesday night at Sisler High School.

Robert Falcon Ouellette at all-candidates forum

Robert Falcon Ouellette speaks to attendees before an all-candidates mayoral forum to discuss Filipino ossiues in Winnipeg Tuesday night. (Kaj Hasselriis/CBC)

The Manitoba Filipino Business Council hosted a mayoral forum to discuss issues in Winnipeg’s Filipino community.

The event got off to a slow start after 25 minutes of introductions followed a late start time.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Brian Bowman, Michel Fillion, David Sanders, Gord Steeves, Michael Vogiatzakis, Hazem Aslan and Judy Wasylycia-Leis were all in attendance.

The first thing candidates were asked was about the track record with ethnic communities.

Vogiatzakis said being a funeral director helped give him insight into a number of ethnic groups, and “all people deserve equal opportunity.”

Steeves said he appreciated the “go get it” nature of newcomers and their sense of entrepreneurship.

Havixbeck said as a teen she worked in grocery stores and “learned a lot about the Filipino culture from a very young age.” She said Winnipeg should improve its provincial nominee programs and sister-relationships developed with other cities in the world.

Aslam said Winnipeg needs a mayor for all of its communities.

Filipino mayoral forum in Winnipeg

Nine Winnipeg mayoral hopefuls attended an all-candidates forum on the city's Filipino issues Tuesday night. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Sanders said over the years he has worked with people of all ethnicities and said he helped launch the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre and Neechi Commons in the North End.

“I came after the first wave of Filipino immigrants,” Wasylycia-Leis told attendees. “Look what the Filipino community has done in those decades.”

She called Winnipeg an excellent, multicultural place and said as a provincial cabinet minister in the 1980s, she helped establish the Manitoba Intercultural Council.

Filipino Winnipeg mayoral forum

Attendees gather at a mayoral forum at Sisler High School Tuesday night to discuss Filipino issues in Winnipeg. (Kaj Hasselriis/CBC)

Ouellette asked attendees, “What is culture? What is ethnic?” explaining he has a two-year-old Jamaican daughter, whose roots he has tried to protect.

Brian Bowman took a similar tact, saying, “What makes Winnipeg strong is our rich cultural diversity. It doesn't matter where you're from -- you're a Winnipegger."

Bowman referenced his Metis heritage and said campaigning with ethnic communities had been a lot of fun.

Fillion pointed to his downtown roots as evidence of his connections to ethnic communities.

“How much more ethnic can you get?” he asked attendees.

70,000 Filipinos in Winnipeg

It’s the first time the business council has hosted a mayoral forum.

Winnipeg is home to more 70,000 Filipinos, and Tagalog second-most common mother tongue in the city, edging out French.

"Filipinos account for such a large percentage of Winnipeg's minority population. That's exactly why it's so important for our organizations to engage and invite these candidates to share their thoughts on how their time in office will affect our families, friends and neighbourhoods," MFBC vice-president Hipolito Alibin Jr. said in a press release. "We're looking forward to hearing what these candidates will share."

Winnipeggers go to the polls on Oct. 22.