Candidates pledge to fight crime, boost public transit
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The City of Winnipeg would push for new peace officers to make risky places safer, create a broad crime-prevention plan and set skills targets for future police board members if Scott Gillingham becomes mayor.
One day after city police confirmed violent crime rose in 2021, the mayoral candidate released a strategy for policing and crime prevention.
“I believe it’s critical for Winnipeg to get ahead of our long-term crime challenges… We need a steady, reliable, effective, co-ordinated strategy to bring crime, especially violent crime, down, so that Winnipeg is a safer city,” Gillingham told reporters Thursday.
The Winnipeg Police Service reported Wednesday the number of violent crimes committed in 2021 was up five per cent from the previous year.
Gillingham stressed his announcement wasn’t a reaction to that news but was worked out over several weeks. The strategy aims to move police away from a “reactive approach that is struggling to cope with inbound calls,” he said.
Police have ended multiple proactive efforts in recent years, including a smart policing initiative and partnerships with RCMP on warrants and organized crime, he said.
Gillingham’s strategy calls for the city to create a crime-prevention and community safety plan (that includes emergency agencies, civilian groups and other governments); add and enhance efforts to divert wellness checks and other non-emergency calls from police to other responders; require police to obtain approval from the Winnipeg Police Board to spend proceeds-of-crime dollars; develop a “skills plan” to help select future board members; extend funding for the Downtown Community Safety Partnership to 2027; proactively track and use crime data; and lobby the province to allow peace officers.
Though the exact status of a peace officer would be determined by potential provincial legislation, Gillingham expects the position would come with the power to detain and arrest people. Such officers could improve safety on Transit buses, at homeless shelters and within major public spaces that face a high risk of crime, he said.
Despite some ongoing pressure for city hall to defund police, Gillingham said he doesn’t plan to reduce the law enforcement budget.
“I do not support defunding the police, but I do believe that the Winnipeg Police Service needs to be fiscally accountable so that we can protect taxpayers and other city services,” he said.
Gillingham, city council member for St. James from 2014 to 2022, said it’s too soon to tell how much it would cost Winnipeg to add peace officers, though he expects most of his plan could be funded through existing resources.
The plan also repeats pledges to seek a seat on the Winnipeg Police Board and hire a criminologist-in-residence to advise council and police if he’s elected in the Oct. 26 vote.
Public transportation pledge
Another 2022 mayoral candidate is pushing to revamp Winnipeg’s public transportation system.
Shaun Loney said he would create “MetroMobility” with an app that integrates buses, electric vans and bikes into one seamless system that helps citizens travel without personal vehicles if he becomes Winnipeg’s next mayor.
“With one touch of your finger you (could) summon a dynamically routed electric van that would come to a virtual bus stop within 250 metres of your house and take you to the nearest rapid transit station,” Loney told the Free Press. “It would dramatically improve service for people that are off the arterial routes and make it more likely that people would decrease the number of cars that they have.”
The plan also calls to speed up the city’s transition from diesel to electric buses and ensure some key changes in the up-to-$1.5-billion Winnipeg Transit Master Plan, including revamped routes and increased bus frequency, would be implemented over 10 years, instead of 25.
Loney, an entrepreneur and former policy analyst, would create a new group of “Transit peace officers” who could enforce rules and fare collection, while also connecting those in need with services to address mental health and addictions.
Loney hopes to fund the plan by reallocating funds currently earmarked for more diesel buses, accessing more federal grants, increasing Transit ridership and fare collection, selling carbon credits and dedicating tax revenue from transit-oriented developments.
Jenny Motkaluk, Chris Clacio, Don Woodstock, Rick Shone, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Desmond Thomas, Glen Murray and Jessica Peebles have also registered as candidates for mayor.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.