How will the city recover from service cuts?


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2021 (589 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I have spent most of my council term advocating to divert funds from the increasing operating and wage costs of Winnipeg Police Service, and I am still deeply concerned that our community services and transit budgets continue to face deeper service cuts each year.

That is why I voted against the operating budget for the City of Winnipeg last year. COVID-19 has made these service cuts all the more visible. Just a year ago, the city faced an additional epidemic of trench fever in our homeless population, a disease not seen since soldiers fought in the trenches of the First World War over a century ago.

Almost daily, I receive emails and calls from concerned residents about encampments around their businesses, their homes, and green spaces. The pandemic and the social isolation faced by many has led to increased drug use and overdoses, yet we have seen little structural change to even begin to assist people.

The vulnerable population continues to be forgotten about and left to fend for themselves. They feel abandoned by their government, and feel no need to clean up their garbage or make our community a better place. If you put yourself in their shoes, can you blame them?

It is not a good case to keep believing that increasing the police budget will lead to higher levels of safety. Throwing money at problems, such as purchasing armoured vehicles, helicopters and robot “dogs,” never makes them go away. I want it noted that I do support the need for police to respond to major criminal activities. However, we must tackle the root causes of poverty if we want to reduce crime and homelessness.

There is a reason many citizen groups have been formed throughout northwest Winnipeg in the past few years. They are banding together to work on these matters themselves. From Bear Clan in the North End, Mama Bear Clan in Point Douglas to the newly organized group NorthWest Watchers in Tyndall Park. Citizens are patrolling our streets and doing all this work unpaid — I am so grateful for their service.

With the upcoming 2021-22 budget, the last one before next year’s civic election, I will once again advocate to keep supporting community organizations, recreational programs, and most importantly, continue our partnerships with Indigenous-led and grassroots non-profit organizations offering wraparound support to our vulnerable population.

Winnipeggers have made it clear to me that they want strategic investments in community services, the environment, the arts, recreation, transit, libraries and pools. Yet I worry that once again, these services will continue to get whittled down all under the guise of police safety.

I do believe that we can make a positive investment in our city, in our marginalized communities and for our children. The only way we can move in the right direction is to invest it in our future generations.

Vivian Santos

Vivian Santos
Point Douglas ward report

Vivian Santos is city councillor for Point Douglas.

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