University a 'no-fly zone' for Tory candidates

Student leaders in Manitoba are in an uproar after receiving an e-mail from Conservative campaign organizers calling the University of Winnipeg a "no-fly zone," indicating Tory representatives would not take part in the institution's all-candidates forum.

Student leaders in Manitoba are in an uproar after receiving an e-mail from Conservative campaign organizers calling the University of Winnipeg a "no-fly zone," indicating Tory representatives would not take part in the institution's all-candidates forum.

Kenny Daodu, Conservative candidate for the University of Winnipeg's riding, did not attend Monday evening's all-candidates forum, organized to give the politicians an opportunity to speak on the "importance of education, poverty alleviation and the role of the federal government."

Winnipeg Centre candidates for the NDP, Liberal, Green and Communist parties did attend. Two independent candidates and one running under the banner of the First Peoples National Party also did not attend.

When organizer David Jacks of the Canadian Federation of Students sought another Conservative party candidate in Daodu's place, he was shocked at the e-mail he received in response. The party would not be sending a representative, the brief e-mail said, adding: "This one is a no fly zone."

"It was definitely shocking. It felt like a little bit of a slap in the face for students," Jacks said. "I think it should feel like a slap in the face for the greater community, as well, in Winnipeg Centre."

"What is a no-fly zone?" wonders Jonny Sopotiuk, president of the students union at the University of Manitoba, which also organized an all-candidates forum, scheduled to proceed Tuesday afternoon, without a Conservative candidate.

"My first reaction is a bit offended, as a student and a student leader, that a university campus would be referred to as a no-fly zone by any elected political official, or someone who's seeking political office."

Winnipeg South Centre candidate Rod Bruinooge already took part in a debate on the University of Manitoba campus last week, and was not available for Tuesday's forum, Conservative campaign officials said.

Priority is door-to-door campaigning: Tories

Conservative campaign organizer Marni Larkin, who wrote the e-mail, said all she meant was that her party's candidates are swamped with invitations.

"Our priority is the doors, meeting people one-on-one and talking to them about our plan," she told CBC News on Monday. "Every single person that would be at a forum or panel, we're hoping to meet at the door as well."

Organizers also lacked some basic information on the event, Larkin said.

"We have not got the full details of the debate," she said.

"We do not have the questions for the debate. We do not have the format of the debate. So we will not be participating in that debate."

Daodu, the candidate initially invited to the event, was busy campaigning door-to-door Monday night and could not be reached for comment, Larkin said.