The gamble by NDP hopeful Nahanni Fontaine to impress a crowd made up mostly of Jewish Baba’s and Zaida’s at a St. Johns riding town hall on March 31st, collapsed almost immediately when she begged off answering the first basic election question.
And Fontaine went downhill from there, plumbing the depths of how underwhelming Greg Selinger’s supposed star candidate could be.
“I understand very little about debts and deficits” she told moderator Bernie Bellan in explaining she was not willing to answer a question about the NDP budget plan to the gathering at the Gwen Sector Centre.
“I know the NDP has a plan to bring more jobs to the economy – my priorities are the marginalized of the marginalized.”
Pressed for more background on her work experience, Fontaine cited her work with the Southern Chiefs Organization, peculiarly claiming she had laboured to ensure “a better working relationship” with police — despite her career being built on asserting police engage in rampant, unchecked racism and discrimination towards aboriginals.
“For someone with her academic pedigree she sure didn’t do her homework for that debate and based on the pieces she did speak to she completely misread the room.”
A consultant attending the session, who said he had 30 years experience on the file, asked the candidates about Manitoba Hydro’s debt in pursuit of BiPole and at great length explained its effect on the province’s credit rating that threatens to bankrupt the province.
In a weak response, Fontaine claimed:
- Hydro “have consulted with stakeholders” – which had some voters shaking their heads given the recent blockade by farmers southeast of Winnipeg,
- Hydro was creating jobs in the north ( without mentioning the price charged for power being sold to the US was far beneath the cost of production, so those jobs were being subsidized by Manitobans), and that
- questions about the political bias of the Hydro Board of Directors was to her, an unfair premise. (That would be the same board stocked with former NDP finance minister Eugene Kostyra, her academic Marxist colleague Prof. John Loxley, and actress Tina Keeper, who has actively defended and campaigned for fellow star NDP candidate Wab Kinew.)
A voter pointedly asked Fontaine about how she would conduct herself as MLA in dealing with people who hold different opinions than hers, given Fontaines’ criticism in 2012 about a fundraising event Fontaine falsely blamed on her Progressive Conservative opponent Barbara Judt and the board of her employer, the Osborne House women’s shelter.
Fontaine maintained she had never spoken publicly about the matter and had only sent an email to the Osborne House Board expressing her disdain for anything related to the art form of burlesque. She also professed that the questioning about her activities as a government employee made her not “feel safe”.
Not only were the Baba’s and Zaida’s not offended by the idea a burlesque performer participate in raising funds for battered women, they were visibly disturbed by that evasive response when they learned Fontaine had shaved some facts from her fable.
“she back pedaled saying they weren’t friends only that she knew her and had sat on a board with her many years ago”
Judt explained that Fontaine had gone far beyond emailing the Board, and had also circulated emails inside the government calling those involved with the event “stupid”.
The audience also heard how in the exchange of emails, Deputy Premier Eric Robinson had made his infamous remarks about “ignorant do-good white people”, which was discovered a few months later after a Freedom of Information filing by Judt on Fontaine.
Asked to respond by Bellan, Fontaine emphasized that she never made disparaging comments “in public” – but did not acknowledge or apologize for how she secretly lobbied against Judt inside the halls of power.
At the end when she and I were talking one of her entourage actually said “can we get the fuck outta here now”
Another voter, who had also asked a question of Fontaine about yet another women’s shelter, was even less impressed by Fontaine’s act, especially after she had a conversation with the candidate after the session.
The question she had posed was about why Fontaine had failed to reply to a desperate plea from staff of the Native Women’s Transition Centre for help to deal with the toxic workplace caused by a board and government unwilling to reign in Executive Director Katherine Morrisseau Sinclair – wife of recent Senate appointee Murray Sinclair.
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Fontaine claimed she had only become aware of the request mere hours before the town hall, that she had never seen the email because it was sent thru a government channel (which the public is guided to), and then went off at great length about how her workdays start at 6 am and end at midnight in pursuit of her official duties such as organizing 4 national events.
She also made a vague claim that because of a “conflict of interest”, she could not have done anything to help the staff (and clients) of NWTC.
(See our most recent story Katherine Sinclair quits Native Women’s Transition Centre under cloud; yet another exodus of board members)
The following description of what happened after the town hall concluded, was sent to us the next day by the NWTC employee: