Mayoral candidates want cash from police budget, property taxes to fund to grassroots safety groups

Two Winnipeg mayoral candidates want more funding to flow to grassroots safety groups, but they’re proposing different tactics to do that.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette says if he’s elected mayor on Oct. 26, he would freeze the Winnipeg Police Service’s budget during his first term, and would give what would have been the increase to existing community organizations for proactive programs.

“The goal is to ensure that there’s more innovation in trying to solve crimes,” Ouellette said Friday.

“What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working,” he said. “We’ve been investing more and more, and the police budget seems to go up, and nothing seems to change.”

The police budget rose by $7 million this year, to a total of $320 million, which accounts for 26.8 per cent of the city’s entire 2022 budget.

The vast majority of that goes toward salaries, which is controlled by union agreements — something the mayor and council cannot directly control.

Ouellette says the money saved from a budget freeze would be given out as grants to community safety groups, based on criteria decided by a newly created city committee.

The police service could also apply for extra cash for project that “meet the community standards and … measurables that we’re going to establish,” said Ouellette, who previously ran for mayor in 2014.

Ouellette also says he wants to reform police training to include education on racism, bias and colonization.

The service currently does have training for all new recruits focusing on biases, cultural awareness and racially biased policing. As well, all members had to complete online training about racially biased policing last year.

Ouellette said he also wants a community-led review of the city’s police board.

New tax revenue would fund groups: Murray

Ouellette’s rival Glen Murray also wants to fund existing safety groups, but says he’d do it using tax revenue from new affordable housing.

Murray says if he’s elected, affordable housing would be built on Winnipeg-owned lots that are empty or have abandoned houses. The increased property tax revenue from those lots would then go toward local organizations, he said Friday.

Glen Murray, right, was joined by Darrell Warren from the William Whyte Neighbourhood Association and Sel Burrows, a Point Douglas advocate, at a campaign announcement on Friday. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Murray argued that would result in an overall saving, since firefighters wouldn’t have to attend vacant house fires as often and city crews wouldn’t have to tend vacant lots for things like clearing out garbage.

“If you build the tax base, you can reduce the tax burden,” he said. “I will bring that basic piece of common sense back to the city budget.”

Murray, who was Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998 to 2004, said he’d have a detailed plan on how the city can build affordable housing on vacant lots in the future.

He also said he wants to make some administrative changes at city hall, including giving the non-profit Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation more power to sell and redevelop land. That group already manages several properties in the inner city.

He also wants to see a focus on dealing with properties used in gang and drug activity through what he says would be a “multi-problem building” committee.

“We want that committee to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Sel Burrows, a longtime advocate for safety in the Point Douglas neighbourhood who was at Murray’s policy announcement Friday.

That would mean police and bylaw officers reporting issues like derelict buildings to the city, and having them dealt with faster, Burrows said.

“Crime prevention is a broad thing with a whole bunch of small pieces about it. It involves leadership and the ability to listen to the community.… Glen is the guy to do it,” he said.

“I have also promised him that if he doesn’t fulfil the role he’s indicated he’s willing to, I will kick his butt as far as I can. I’ll let all of you in the media know he’s failing.

“I don’t expect him to fail. I expect Winnipeg to be a better place.”

‘Age-friendly city’: Bokhari

Rana Bokhari, also running for mayor, announced Friday that she wants to improve quality of life for Winnipeggers 65 and older.

Bokhari’s plan includes inclusive housing, increased accessible infrastructure such as wheelchair-friendly picnic tables and paths, creating library programming for seniors, getting more volunteers to help with things like shovelling, and improving Transit Plus.

“We know that there are recommendations already in place” for improving Transit Plus and reducing wait times for the accessible transit service, Bokhari said.

“My plan will fast-forward those recommendations, and ensure that we are making those times more effective and efficient, so when you call that service, you will not be waiting 45 minutes for an answer.”

Two Winnipeg mayoral candidates pitch differing ideas to get more money to city organizations

13 hours ago

Duration 2:30

Robert-Falcon Ouellette and Glen Murray, two Winnipeg mayoral candidates, want more funding to flow to grassroots safety groups, but they’re proposing different tactics to do that.

In addition to Bokhari, Murray and Ouellette, 11 others are running in this year’s mayoral race. The others are Idris Adelakun, Kevin Klein, Chris Clacio, Scott Gillingham, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Jessica Peebles, Rick Shone, Govind Thawani, Desmond Thomas and Don Woodstock.

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