Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Key spending: law and order

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It is going to cost you more to keep yourself safe in the province.

The 2013 budget includes money to hire 11 more Crown attorneys and fund five new RCMP officers, 10 more Winnipeg police officers, and one officer for the Brandon police department.

As well, the province is also budgeting to hire five more paralegals for the prosecutions department, fund five police cadets in Winnipeg and make the funding of five other cadets permanent.

"We know public safety has a cost and it is a cost Manitobans have said they are willing to bear," Justice Minister Andrew Swan said.

Last year, the province budgeted $462 million on costs related to justice, while this year it's at $507 million.

Other justice budget items include spending $500,000 to help women's shelters recruit and retain staff and expand domestic-violence-prevention programs, raising the vehicle-impoundment fee by $20 to $135, and increasing funding to the Native Women's Transition Centre and province's Sexual Exploitation Strategy.

But MLA Reg Helwer, the Tory justice critic, said the NDP needs to do more to fight crime.

"This is the biggest tax increase in Manitoba's history and it will have no effect on making Manitobans safer," Helwer said.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, said she's concerned there doesn't appear to be any money to hire corrections officers. "There needs to be more guards because our inmate population is not going down," she said. "There seems to be increases in other areas of justice but without more guards, what are we doing?"

While the province is spending more to catch criminals and prosecute them, it's not increasing the budget for lawyers to defend them.

The budget for Legal Aid Manitoba is going up $1.1 million to $29 million, but that is due to increases under salary and employee benefits, with nothing budgeted to hire more staff lawyers or provide additional fees for private lawyers. Swan called on the federal government to pick up more of the cost for Legal Aid than the 18 per cent it does now.

 

-- Kevin Rollason

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2013 B4

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