Tory MP blames Liberal policies for surging Winnipeg violence

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OTTAWA — A Winnipeg Conservative MP claims the Liberals’ softer touch on crime has been contributing to the city’s crime wave, arguing looming reforms will only make the problem worse.

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OTTAWA — A Winnipeg Conservative MP claims the Liberals’ softer touch on crime has been contributing to the city’s crime wave, arguing looming reforms will only make the problem worse.

“People are desensitized to it, almost,” Kildonan-St. Paul MP Raquel Dancho said. “It’s really concerning, and I don’t feel that the Liberal plan will do anything, which is the most frustrating thing.”

As the Tory public-safety critic, Dancho toured Winnipeg Police Service headquarters in February and heard that officers were being run ragged because of an increase in gun and drug cases.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES “It’s really concerning, and I don’t feel that the Liberal plan will do anything, which is the most frustrating thing,” said Kildonan-St. Paul MP Raquel Dancho.

During another visit this month at the WPS firearms-training centre she was told the problem was worse.

“They can barely keep up with the violent crime, let alone lesser crimes like break-and-enter, which are obviously also very concerning,” Dancho said.

Her comments contrast with WPS Chief Danny Smyth’s contention in a July 8 news conference that a spate of high-profile violent crimes was alarming, but not a new trend in the city.

On Tuesday, Premier Heather Stefanson said Smyth’s comments risked normalizing violence. She said she reached out to the police union to “hear what’s really happening” from the front line.

Dancho argued the Trudeau government’s decision to undo reforms dating back to former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s era have contributed to crime in the city.

Since taking office, the Liberals have repealed some mandatory minimum sentences, arguing they have led to a disproportionate incarceration of minority groups and Indigenous people.

A month ago, the Liberals defended their policies in Parliament when Dancho raised the issue of violent crime in Winnipeg.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino noted gun crime was trending upwards before the Liberals took office in 2015, after the Harper government cut some funding streams for police.

“The last time the Conservative party had the reins of government, there was a failed and prosecuted agenda around sentence reforms that simply did not work. The Supreme Court of Canada repeatedly struck down those failed policies,” Mendicino shot back, on June 9.

“The (Conservatives) have no plan, no alternative, except for repeatedly stating that they would make assault-style rifles legal again.”

The Liberals have plans to repeal more mandatory-minimum sentences for drug and gun crimes through Bill C-5, which the Senate will likely pass into law in the fall.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino noted that gun crime was trending upwards before the Liberals took office in 2015, after the Harper government cut some funding streams for police officers.

The legislation gives judges more leverage to sentence offenders to community service or order addictions treatment.

Dancho said that would end a guarantee that criminals serve time for crimes such as extortion, or firing a gun with an intent to harm. She fears violent offenders could instead end up in programs or serving house arrest terms in the same neighbourhoods as people they’ve put in danger.

She argued that contradicts the Liberals’ own logic, since the party has pledged to deter gun smuggling by beefing up some sentences as part of a national ban on handguns.

Winnipeg police have long said that guns used in city crimes are overwhelmingly already banned in Canada, and were often smuggled from the United States.

Dancho argued the Liberals should instead increase funding for both police officers and grassroots intervention programs such as Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg and Toronto’s The One by One Movement.

“If they really cared about this, they would be dumping money into areas where it’s going to help,” she said.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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