David Asper, tapped to chair police board, endorsed Tory leadership hopeful calling for relaxed gun laws

The lawyer nominated to lead the Winnipeg Police Board says he doesn't share the same opinions about gun control as the Conservative Party leadership candidate he endorsed this winter.

Asper says he will put aside all political activities if council approves his nomination

Council will consider appointing David Asper as the new chair of the Winnipeg Police Board on Wednesday. (CBC)

The lawyer nominated to lead the Winnipeg Police Board says he doesn't share the same opinions about gun control as the Conservative Party leadership candidate he endorsed this winter.

On Wednesday, city council will consider Mayor Brian Bowman's appointment of David Asper as the chair of Winnipeg's police board. Pending the council vote, Asper would lead the seven-member board that sets the policy direction for the Winnipeg Police Service.

While Asper is a well-known criminal lawyer with an interest in human rights, he has also been active in the Conservative Party of Canada. In February, Asper endorsed Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier, partly because the Quebec MP is promising a less intrusive federal government.

"He is proposing flatter income taxes, the abolition of capital gains taxes and an overall recalibration of what government does," Asper wrote about Bernier in a Huffington Post Canada blog posted on Feb. 8.

Bernier's libertarianism also extends to firearms regulations. On his Tory leadership campaign website, he calls for repealing restrictions on the size of magazines, doubling the length of licenses and reclassifying firearms based on their function.

Maxime Bernier, endorsed for Conservative leader by Asper, supports fewer firearms restrictions. (CBC)
In an interview, Asper said his endorsement of Bernier has no bearing on how he would chair the Winnipeg Police Board.

"I don't completely agree with everything he says, especially with what he says with his gun policy," Asper said Monday in a telephone interview. 

Asper said he plans to put aside all of his political activities if council approves his nomination to become the police board's new chair. That will include any further involvement in the Conservative leadership campaign.

"Since the nomination, it's clear to me if council approves the nomination, I'm not going to be politically active," Asper said. "What I did before has to be put aside."

A spokesman for Mayor Brian Bowman said Asper's endorsement of Bernier poses no concern.

"The mayor nominated Mr. Asper based on his board experience, expertise in law and service to our community," Jeremy Davis said via email.

"Mr. Asper's extensive experience will aid him in his work towards instituting the Winnipeg Police Board's strategic plan."

Council is also poised to approve the appointment of Canadian Footwear's Brian Scharfstein to the police board. Asper and Scharfstein will succeed North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who resigned as chair in February, and citizen representative Derek Johannson, who resigned in March.


Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.