Mayoral candidate proposes 'negative toll bridge' to pay people to visit North End

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Ed Ackerman says the city should spend $400 million to pay motorists $10 a trip to cross into the North End, provided they spend that money in the area.

Jokes, non-sequiturs from filmmaker Ed Ackerman dominate mayoral forum about business policy

Mayoral candidates Tim Diack, Jenny Motkaluk, Ed Ackerman and Brian Bowman attend Thursday night's business forum at the University of Winnipeg. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Ed Ackerman wants to build a "negative toll bridge" that pays people to visit the North End.

The Winnipeg mayoral candidate says the city should spend $400 million to pay motorists $10 a trip to cross into the North End, provided they spend that money in the area.

Ackerman proposed the novel project during the third hour of a Thursday-night mayoral forum organized by the Jewish Business Council, a four-month-old organization.

It was the third all-candidates forum in as many nights but the first to focus on business issues. Most of the candidates, however, were unable or unwilling to answer prepared questions about their economic platforms during the event, held before a sparse crowd at the University of Winnipeg's Eckhardt-Grammaté Hall.

Only three candidates provided coherent answers to the question of how they planned to reform Winnipeg's 5.14-per-cent business tax. Incumbent mayor Brian Bowman and business consultant Jenny Motkaluk said they would continue to reduce it in annual increments, with an eye toward eliminating it. Police officer Tim Diack said he would freeze it.

Only Bowman and Motkaluk offered a concrete response to a question about how they would grow the city's manufacturing sector. Both said they would extend services to CentrePort, the industrial park alongside Richardson International Airport, though Motkaluk criticized Bowman for failing to do so during this first term as mayor.

None of the candidates provided fulsome responses to the question of what innovations they would bring the business sector or how they would assist startups. Motkaluk used these questions to note the only things businesses want from a municipality is working infrastructure, consistent services — and for government to get out of the way.

Former Winnipeg Transit driver Don Woodstock was the only candidate to offer a concrete means of encouraging more Indigenous entrepreneurship.

"Fish farming," he said.

Motkaluk used this question as well to take a swipe at Bowman. In an oblique reference to the incumbent mayor's Indigenous Accord — a signed agreement to commit to the principles of reconciliation — Motkaluk said Indigenous Winnipeggers are less concerned with ceremony than they are with the removal of barriers.

Mayoral candidate Ed Ackerman wants to pay people to visit the North End. (Travis Golby/CBC)

It was Ackerman, however, who attracted the most attention, albeit not for engaging in a serious discussion about business policy.

The filmmaker, best known for his failed attempt to appear on Winnipeg's 2010 mayoral ballot and subsequent ill-fated effort to prevent the demolition of an inner-city property known as Alphabet House, said his platform has two planks: comedy and danger.

He repeatedly joked throughout the forum and issued non-sequiturs instead of answering questions.

Ackerman told the audience he purchased his vintage eyeglasses at an antique store in Annapolis Royal, N.S., spoke about his desire to renegotiate Treaty 1 and stated the only parties he supports are the ones that occur on Friday and Saturday night.

"I have no cards. I'm playing with a full deck, though," he said.

No fewer than seven more mayoral forums or debates are scheduled prior to election day on Oct. 24.


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