The city and province are waging another funding war, this time over who’s supposed to pay for Winnipeg’s new police board.
At a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon, city council voted unanimously to create a new board to provide civilian oversight over the Winnipeg Police Service. A bylaw to create the board had to be passed by Dec. 1 to meet the terms of province’s Police Services Act. That 2009 piece of legislation came on the heels of the Taman Inquiry, which examined police conduct in the death of Crystal Taman.
The board will have the authority to hire police chiefs and act as a liaison between the community and the police service. While it will give civilians more input into policing, the board does not have input on operational decisions of the service, investigations or day-to-day operation of the police department.
At city council, protection chairman Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) praised the new board as a tool that could promote more transparency in the Winnipeg Police Service. The board effectively replaces the short-lived Winnipeg Police Advisory Board, created by Mayor Sam Katz primarily to ensure financial accountability within the police service, whose budget accounts for almost a quarter of the city’s operational spending.
The cost of the new board, however, has become a major point of contention between Katz and the Selinger government.
Katz said he expects the province will pay for the bulk of the costs associated with the creation of the new board, citing a promise made by former provincial justice minister Dave Chomiak.
"Very clearly council expects them to live up to their promise and that's the only reason we moved forward on it," Katz said Wednesday.
Katz said the city will only pay for nominal costs, such as covering per diems for board members.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan, however, said it's up to the City of Winnipeg to cover the cost and said the mayor is a "little confused." He said the province will pay for the full cost of the Manitoba Police Commission and will train and provide guidance to members of the Winnipeg police board.
Swan also said the province is covering the cost of an independent investigations unit which will probe any serious allegations against an officer. Previously, he said this type of work was done by the Winnipeg Police Service.
Swan said it is up to the city to decide whether to hire staff for the police board, and expects there will be few additional expenses.
"I don't expect the City of Winnipeg is going to want us to charge them every time we investigate a Winnipeg police officer," he said. "That's something we're prepared to shoulder."
Katz said he is waiting to have a meeting with Swan to discuss the matter. Katz made a similar comment on Oct. 16.
When asked why it has taken more than a month for the two elected officials to meet, the mayor said the justice minister is a very busy man.