Province commits extra money for police helicopter: Katz

It would appear the Winnipeg Police Service is getting its helicopter after all.

It would appear the Winnipeg Police Service is getting its helicopter after all.

The Manitoba government has agreed to pony up extra money to cover any operational cost increases associated with the chopper, according to Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, who revealed the latest development to reporters Tuesday afternoon.

He said the agreement came out of a weekend meeting between himself and Premier Greg Selinger.

"I'm telling you that the Premier and I have spoken twice over the weekend. In my opinion, this deal is done. We're moving forward," Katz said.

Last week, he said the helicopter plan wouldn't fly without additional funding from the province, which had promised $1.3 million a year in operating costs but nothing more to cover inflationary costs.

He estimated inflationary costs at about two per cent annually to be around $25,000.

"I do not believe this is over. I believe individuals can sit down and work things out but I prefer doing this face to face," Katz said on Friday.

At that time, in reaction to the mayor's comments, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said the province wouldn't budge on its offer.

He suggested the city go back to the drawing board and make the $1.3 million a year work somehow.

However, a government spokesperson said Tuesday that the province has agreed to cover inflationary costs.

Because the helicopter will likely only be in the air for a few months this year, the provincial cash that's left over will be used to fund any inflation in subsequent years. The deal will be reassessed in 2012, the spokesperson said.

The deal comes just days after Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen criticized the government for not providing the extra cash.

The province promised a police chopper in its throne speech and should deliver on that, he said last week, adding there should not be a squabble over $25,000 a year, he said.

On Dec. 15, city council agreed to make $3.5 million available to buy the chopper but only if the province paid for the operating costs.

Katz is hoping the helicopter can take to the sky sometime in the summer once all of the arrangements are made.