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Wife’s comments on aboriginals heat up Winnipeg mayoral race

Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd shares a laugh with Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz in 2012. Mr. Katz is not seeking re-election.

David Lipnowski/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A candidate for the mayor's chair in Winnipeg continued to lay low Monday as some of his competitors called on him to clear the air over his wife's comments about aboriginal panhandlers.

Gord Steeves has not held any news conferences and has refused interview requests since last Friday when comments by his wife, Lorrie, were leaked online. In a 2010 Facebook post, she said she was tired of dealing with "drunken native guys" who collect welfare and harass working people for money.

Lorrie Steeves issued a short written apology Friday afternoon, but her husband has said nothing on the topic. His campaign team has said Steeves will address the situation at some point Tuesday.

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That's a bit late, said fellow candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

"I believe it is important for Gord Steeves to stand up and say it is not helpful for anyone in this city to be casting disparaging remarks ... about a population in our city," she said.

"If my husband should say something horrible ... I would not want to be held responsible for that. But I would be very embarrassed and it would feel very necessary to get out in front of it and say, 'I in no way accept or tolerate those kind of comments."'

Another mayoral hopeful, Robert Falcon Ouellette, said Steeves should bear some responsibility for his wife's comments.

"I think there is a certain level of responsibility about the people who you surround yourself with. If I decide to surround myself with people who are not of good character, then I think that reflects on me. Because at the end of the day, they're going to influence how you think and what you believe in."

Another candidate, Brian Bowman, denounced Lorrie Steeves's remarks as hurtful and wrong, but wouldn't comment on whether her husband should be accountable.

"I'll leave that to voters. Personally, I think there are enough differences (between the candidates) on policy and I'd encourage people to look at policy differences."

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There are eight candidates in the race for the Oct. 22 mayoral vote. Incumbent Sam Katz is not seeking re-election.

Steeves, a lawyer who was a sitting councillor in 2010, had been considered one of the front-runners. He resigned from council in 2011 and ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the legislature.

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