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NDP, Tories focus on downtown

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WINNIPEG - The NDP wants to work with the private sector to redevelop nearly seven acres of downtown surface parking lots now owned by the province or provincial Crown corporations, Premier Greg Selinger said Monday.

In a campaign announcement outside the Winnipeg Convention Centre, Selinger said a government he leads would offer incentives to developers to build 2,100 more housing units downtown.

He also repeated a pledge of provincial support for the proposed expansion of the convention centre.

Selinger said the NDP wants to build on the "incredible success" of such recent downtown projects as the MTS Centre, the Manitoba Hydro building and the growth of the Red River College campus in the Exchange District.

The new housing units will be developed by extending and increasing the provincial contribution to the Downtown Residential Development Grant Program, the premier said. The program, launched in 2010, has already supported over 700 new condominium and rental units in downtown Winnipeg, he said.

Meanwhile, Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFaden used an early-morning downtown shooting to highlight ways his government would get tough on crime.

Speaking today near the shooting scene at Portage Avenue and Carlton Street, McFadyen said if elected he would reinstate a city police gang database to help keep of track gang members and fund more officers for special unit to focus on the illegal gun trade.

Both Tory promises were announced earlier in the Oct. 4 election campaign.

"We need to be sure that we have both the reality and the perception of a safe downtown," McFadyen told reporters.

Selinger said Monday a re-elected NDP government would fund the hiring of 50 more police officers to specifically walk a beat downtown and along Portage Avenue.

He also said government has been frustrated over the past few years, in helping the city pay for other new police positions, as few if any were dedicated to downtown street patrols.

Selinger said he had no comment on McFadyen using a shooting that injured two people, for political purposes.

"We hope them a speedy recovery and as little pain and suffering as possible," he said.

"We’ll leave it up to the media and the public to decide whether (the Tories) going to the site and using it for political purposes is appropriate today."

The 28-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman were walking near the Manitoba Hydro building with a small group of people from a nearby business at about 2:30 a.m. when they were shot. They are in stable condition in hospital.

Police said the two victims – who are acquaintances – are co-operating with police and aren’t known criminals. Police also said a vehicle may have been involved in the shooting, but were careful to caution media that the incident wasn’t necessarily a drive-by shooting.

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