The poor have no excuse to rob Liquor Marts: Pallister
'Let's stand up for law and order together,' premier says after being grilled about attack
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says the financial background of Liquor Mart thieves needs to stop being used as an excuse to justify the actions of robbers who loot booze and hurt others.
The premier was grilled in question period Thursday about Wednesday night's violent Tyndall Park Liquor Mart robbery that left several people injured, including a female employee who was rushed to hospital in critical condition after being punched in the face.
The Opposition NDP want Pallister to call an emergency summit with the union representing Liquor Mart workers, other retailers, police and addictions and social services experts.
Liquor Mart stores are robbed daily by thieves, often underage, who walk in with duffel bags they fill with bottles of liquor that are often then used as currency and resold.
Asked after question period if he thought stiffer penalties were needed for Liquor Mart thieves who continue to rob the government-owned stores, Pallister said, "There's a need to stop describing people who hurt other people as victims. To get away from that false, mistaken and misguided way of thinking.
"I come from a poor background but I didn't choose to engage in criminal activity. Stop making the false assertion that someone who is poor has an excuse for stealing from other people. They don't."
Pallister said many Manitobans are poor and don't choose to hurt anyone else. He called it a phoney excuse and said it needs to start being treated as such.
"Let's stand up for law and order together."
Pallister said he raised Winnipeg's recent wave of violent crime last week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and on Friday will be meeting with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman. The mayor has previously called for a meeting with Pallister and Trudeau.
NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine said Pallister is missing the point and needs to address the root causes of crime if he wants to stop the stores from being under siege.
"If we don't deal with people's trauma, if we don't deal with the fact that people are growing up in abject poverty we're never going to be dealing with any of these issues on a very substantial level and anything that we do is simply just a Band-Aid."
Pallister said his government has already launched more than 100 initiatives to address what some call the root causes of crime.
Fontaine said a summit is needed with workers who can advise if they think having mandatory photo ID checks at the door is the right idea.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he'd support having the ID checks. Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said Liquor and Lotteries has told him the mandatory checks will be coming to the 36 different stores in Winnipeg.
"The goal … is to move forward quickly with all stores to ensure we protect not only our staff but our customers as well," Wharton said.
"Look, safety is number one."
Late Thursday afternoon, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries announced all Liquor Marts in Winnipeg will be retrofitted with controlled entrances and customers will have to show photo ID before being allowed inside. No minors will be permitted to enter, even when accompanied by an adult.
Pallister said had stern words for anyone who's thinking of robbing another Liquor Mart.
"I would send a message to any person out there who is thinking of undertaking a violent or criminal act to understand that we have ways of finding you and we are going to find you and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, so rethink your decision making."