WEST ST. PAUL -- The mayor of a bedroom community just outside Winnipeg was the victim of a vicious assault last week that is believed to have been political in nature.
West St. Paul Mayor Bruce Henley was leaving his house about 6:45 a.m. last Wednesday when two men hiding behind bushes jumped him as he was walking from his house to his vehicle.
The men, disguised by balaclavas and hoods, beat Henley repeatedly with baseball bats. They left him lying on the ground as they fled in a vehicle with its lights off.
Henley, 53, was taken to Seven Oaks General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and released. He is badly bruised but does not have broken bones.
Henley declined an interview but tried to clear the air in remarks at the Sunova Centre in West St. Paul last night. He made his comments at the start of a public hearing into putting sewer service in the Riverdale district off the trunk line being installed to connect to Winnipeg's sewer system. An RCMP officer was stationed at the back of the room.
He told his audience last night he would have to sit from time to time because he is "in some discomfort."
He was not robbed and there is speculation the motive was political. It is not believed to be a random attack, as the assailants seemed to know Henley's habits, such as when he leaves the house in the morning.
"I was ambushed in my own yard by two men with bats," an emotional Henley told about 100 people at the meeting. "These men are evil... Mark my words, these people will be caught. I'm not out for vengeance; I'm looking for justice."
He said the attack is a threat to everyone in the community. "When this kind of act goes on, everyone is at risk. We will not stand for this kind of activity... It's something that's disgraceful."
A political friend of Henley's, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "Bruce is a tough mayor. Someone is trying to be tougher and deliver a message."
The friend said the attack is especially upsetting to Henley because he has school-age children at home. The attack was in a residential neighbourhood of West St. Paul.
No arrests have been made. The RCMP investigation is continuing.
A hot political topic in West St. Paul is its rapid development. The RM grew 14 per cent since 2006 to about 5,000 people, according to the 2011 Canada census. The municipality believes it could grow another 25 per cent by the next census in five years. That is largely due to the sewer trunk line being installed along Main Street/Highway 9 this winter, connecting the community to Winnipeg's sewer system.
Controversy has also surfaced over a new $3-million fire hall under construction in the RM.
People in the audience last night voiced their disgust at the attack.
"In my 26 years living in this community, something like this has never happened before, and I was on the fire department for 15 years," said resident Alex Pylypowich.
Marge Zubriski called the incident "ugly" and her husband, Henry, said it was an example of "schoolyard mentality. A kid who never grew up."
"Unfortunately, that's the society we live in. It's insane," said a resident, who only gave his first name, Dave.