Mayoral candidate reveals he's homeless, another questioned about arrest

A mayoral candidates' debate in Winnipeg saw a few unexpected turns Thursday, including one candidate revealing he is homeless and another encouraging the crowd to applaud a rival on the basis of her gender.

Rival candidate knocks Brian Bowman for 'vanity projects' and 'waste' at housing forum

Brian Bowman and Jenny Motkaluk take part in a debate hosted by the Winnipeg Realtors Association and Winnipeg Free Press at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain on Oct. 4, 2018. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A mayoral candidates' debate in Winnipeg saw a few unexpected turns Thursday, including one candidate revealing he is homeless, another encouraging the crowd to applaud a rival on the basis of her gender and yet another coming under attack for being arrested.

Despite all of the fireworks — or maybe due to it — several voters believe Brian Bowman came out the winner.

"He's the best of what is there," said Liz Cronk, a nurse, after the debate at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain. "Honestly I would like to see a woman as mayor, but I don't vote for a woman just because of her gender. She has to have ideas and [Jenny] Motkaluk's ideas — she's been so negative, right from the get-go."

Questions posed at the debate, hosted by the Winnipeg Realtors Association and Winnipeg Free Press, centred on housing and new developments, but much of what candidates said were now familiar campaign talking points — curbing meth use, improving safety, completing an interior ring road, to name a few.

But Umar Hayat left the audience a little stunned when he asked people to clap for Motkaluk because she was doing a "tremendous job" running for mayor "as a woman." Motkaluk politely thanked him.

Filmmaker Ed Ackerman revealed he is currently homeless and slept on a floor Wednesday night due to a protracted legal battle with the city after his home was demolished in 2010.

Filmmaker Ed Ackerman said Thursday he is homeless. He has been in a long legal fight with the city since his home was demolished, he said. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Ackerman and Motkaluk then confronted Venkat Machiraju over his recent arrest for allegedly violating a protection order. Machiraju told the crowd it was personal and his lawyer advised him not to speak about it to the media.

Ackerman then picked up Machiraju's previous criticism of Motkaluk for a potential conflict of interest should she be elected mayor. Her brother owns a prominent Winnipeg construction company which has received millions in road repair contracts.

Motkaluk said the public service awards road repair work, not the mayor.

For some in attendance, the attacks and the revelations during the debate left them unsatisfied.

"Democracy is great, but when I look [at the] eight candidates, I think some of them just wouldn't be good mayors," said Cronk.

'Vanity projects' and 'waste' at City Hall

Motkaluk focused the majority of her criticism at Bowman, suggesting the city has become less safe under his leadership and he mismanaged city finances.

"The question I have for the mayor, is this: Which part of our household budget should we take away from our families?" Moktakluk asked, referring to the cost of Bowman's planned annual property tax hikes of 2.33 per cent for the next four years.

Umar Hayat, centre, frequently exited his chair to speak in the centre of the stage Thursday. During one of his statements he asked the audience to applaud for Jenny Motkaluk (right) for running for mayor as a woman. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

"Should it be the hockey fees, should it be our grocery budgets or maybe it should be turning down the heat in order to continue to pay for the vanity projects and waste that we're seeing at City Hall?"

Bowman said the tax increases pay for long-overdue road repairs.

"What we can't afford to do is go back to the toxic, negative-style politics that you're seeing right now, which led us to audits and police investigations," he said.

Bowman blamed meth addiction in part for the recent increase in crime.

Debate attendee Pam St. Godard said before Thursday's debate she hadn't entirely decided who she would be voting for Oct. 24. Afterwards, though, she said she had decided on Bowman, in part because she wasn't impressed by Motkaluk.

"I found a lot of her answers were attack answers rather than giving me information that I needed to hear," said St. Godard.

"I need to hear from her what she can do for me."

A recent Probe Research poll commissioned by CTV Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press suggests Bowman has a two-to-one lead over Motkaluk, while all other candidates captured a combined 11 per cent of voter support.

With files from Bartley Kives