Winnipeg lawyer David Asper was approved as chairman of the Winnipeg police board by city council Wednesday.
In a vote of 13-3, council endorsed Mayor Brian Bowman's pick of Asper as board chairman and Brian Scharfstein as a citizen appointee.
Asper said he's honoured by council's endorsement.
"It's an important role, and I look forward to collaborating with the other board members, police service and council," he said by email Wednesday night. "There’s a steep learning curve, and I’m already on it."
Asper replaces Coun. Jeff Browaty, who was forced to resign in February under pressure from the board’s indigenous council. Scharfstein, a businessman, replaces Derek Johannson, who resigned in March citing a heavy workload.
Coun. Ross Eadie opposed the appointment of Asper as chairman, saying it's a violation of the city’s bylaw and a breach of the intent of city council when it created the board in 2012. The November 2012 administrative report that supports the police board bylaw states the city’s appointments to the board will consist of two members of council — one of whom will be chairman — and three citizens.
"It's not about who's being appointed," Eadie told council Wednesday before the confirmation vote. "I'm not critical of the people... These two probably have lots to offer," he said. Eadie's biggest concern is the mayor is appointing a chairman — a position of power and one that should be filled by an elected member of council, he said.
"An unelected chair of the police board will have more rights than a council member on it," Eadie said.
The two other councillors who opposed the endorsement were Russ Wyatt, who didn't offer an explanation, and Shawn Dobson.
"I have a slight problem nominating a non-council member for chairman of the board," said Dobson (St. Charles). "Now we're switching to a citizen, and no one has explained why we're doing that. They're just throwing it in front of us," he said. "I can't approve it at this time."
Bowman stood by his pick of Asper.
"He has provided incredible leadership for our community for many years," said Bowman, citing Asper's volunteer work as a board chairman with the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Winnipeg Football Club and as a respected criminal defence lawyer.
Asper is currently chairman of the Asper Foundation and chairman and co-founder of Amenity Health Care.
"He's very well connected to our community," Bowman said.
The plan to replace two white men on the board with two other white men surprised some observers who hoped the city, in the spirit of reconciliation with the indigenous community, would appoint at least one indigenous person to fill one of the vacancies. Mary Jane Loustel is the board's only representative from the indigenous community.
Bowman said previously he didn’t feel bound to make his decision based on gender or race.