Leaders weigh in on downtown Winnipeg safety

Three of Manitoba's political leaders have weighed in on safety in Winnipeg's downtown, in light of a double-shooting Monday and an expected influx of Jets fans for the team's first pre-season game on Tuesday.
In light of a double-shooting in downtown Winnipeg, crime and safety resurface as top Manitoba election issues. 1:46

Three of Manitoba's political leaders weighed in on safety in Winnipeg's downtown, in light of a double-shooting that took place on Monday and an expected influx of Jets fans for the team's first pre-season game on Tuesday.

NDP Leader Greg Selinger, PC Leader Hugh McFadyen and Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard all offered their solutions for keeping Winnipeggers safe downtown, especially given Monday's shooting on Portage Avenue and Carlton Street that sent a man and a woman to hospital.

The shooting, about a block from the MTS Centre, comes just one day before the Jets take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at that arena. Many fans are expected to converge on the downtown for the pre-season game.

NDP leader Greg Selinger said he will give the City of Winnipeg money for 50 more police officers, but he wants to see hem used as beat patrols downtown.

"It's been frustrating not to see cops walking on Portage Avenue," he said.

Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz called Selinger's frustration and insistance where the officers will go "absolute, unadulterated hogwash."

 "OK, why don't you just be the chief of police? Why even have a chief of police if you want to decide where all the resources are going?" Katz said.

"Maybe you should be talking to the chief of police and not the mayor."

Police statistics show overall crime downtown has decreased in the last year, except for sex assaults and robberies. But the perception the downtown is dangerous still exists.

Whether the real problem is crime or poverty, Urban Studies professor Jino Distasio said the NHL's return ramps up the pressure on politicians to keep downtown safe.

"It's pretty safe to say that we have a new demographic that's going to be coming to NHL games; they have a lot more money in their pocket," he said.

Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen is one of the people heading to the Jets game. Although he said he's not worried about his family's safety "I don't think everybody feels that way, and I think we want to be sure that everybody feels that sense of safety."

His party wants to add more cops, more cadets and set up a handgun enforcement unit. The Liberals want to add officers too — truancy officers to keep kids in school.

"What we know about crime is that it's kids on the streets; kids who are not able to get an education, who are much more likely to be involved in crime," Liberal leader Jon Gerrard said.

In the meantime, until the next provincial government takes office and takes action on its crime-reduction promises, the Downtown BIZ said it will put more patrols on duty for Jets game nights.

And True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Jets and MTS Centre, is also beefing up security staff inside the centre.