WINNIPEG — Accusations of poking and swearing, along with invocations of dead political icons and a threatened lawsuit, are making the election race in Winnipeg Centre one of the strangest in the country.
Given the characters involved it was likely only a matter of time before fireworks erupted.
Pat Martin, the New Democrat incumbent known for saucy language and calling Conservatives “rat-faced whores” on social media, has been accused by Green Party candidate Don Woodstock of swearing and jabbing him in the ribs at a debate this week.
Woodstock, who is known for breaking into song while appearing in front of a legislature committee in 2013, has lambasted Martin and Liberal candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette for living outside the riding, but was investigated himself for allegedly giving a false home address while running in the last provincial election.
Ouellette is a political newcomer who finished a surprising third in Winnipeg’s mayoral election last year. He has been derided on social media for saying his campaign battle is like that of executed Metis leader Louis Riel and would be supported by the late NDP giant Tommy Douglas.
Sparks flew when the three sat down together for a debate Wednesday evening in a downtown shopping mall.
Martin became upset when Woodstock accused him and his staff of failing to help the inner-city riding’s low-income residents. Martin was caught by television cameras muttering to Woodstock “you son of a bitch.”
Woodstock alleges that Martin went even further soon afterward, dropping the F-word while calling him a “prick” and poking him in the ribs.
“When he jabbed me, I gave him back a jab on the arm,” Woodstock said Thursday, adding he wants the NDP to withdraw Martin as a candidate.
“And I look at him and I go — with a look on my face — ‘really?”’
Martin was not immediately available to comment Thursday. His campaign office said he was in a meeting.
The race has already seen plenty of acrimony, mostly focused on where each candidate lives.
Martin had threatened to sue his opponents, saying they were spreading false rumours that he lives on Saltspring Island in British Columbia. Martin has a cottage there, but lives just south of downtown Winnipeg, just outside the Winnipeg Centre boundaries.
Ouellette’s campaign team issued a statement acknowledging that Martin does not live in B.C., but pointing out that he has frequently been there and has strong links to the area that have been highlighted by New Democrats themselves.
Ouellette, however, lives far from Winnipeg Centre, one of the poorest ridings in Canada, in the upper-middle-class suburbs near the south edge of the city.
Woodstock has tried to capitalize on being the only candidate who currently lives in Winnipeg Centre.
But in 2011, Elections Manitoba investigated a complaint from the NDP that Woodstock, who was running for the Liberals provincially, had provided a false address as his residence.
The elections commissioner found that Woodstock had never lived at the address he provided, but had put a deposit down to buy the home. The purchase didn’t go through and the commissioner decided to drop the matter.
Allie Szarkiewicz is running for the Conservatives. She did not attend Wednesday’s debate.
Martin has held the seat since 1997, winning almost double the votes of his closest opponent in the last election.