More than 1 in 3 Winnipeggers support cutting police budget, survey suggests

Winnipeg had the second-highest proportion in Canada of people surveyed who said their city spends too much on the police and that their funding should be reduced.

36 per cent surveyed in city noted 'serious problem' with how Winnipeg police interact with people of colour

Calls to defund police were part of a Justice 4 Black Lives rally in Winnipeg in June. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A new poll suggests more than one-third of people in Winnipeg support cutting the city's police budget.

Winnipeg had the second-highest proportion of people — out of all municipalities — who said their city spends too much on the police (36 per cent) and that their funding should be reduced, according to the poll from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute.

That figure was second only to people surveyed in the Greater Toronto Area, at 38 per cent.

"Manitoba — and specifically Winnipeg — is a bit of an outlier when it comes to some of these views," said Shachi Kurl, the president of Angus Reid, in an interview on CBC's Information Radio on Monday.

"Respondents in Winnipeg are a little bit more in line with those in Ontario in terms of their views on this and a lot less likely to be aligned with a view, say, in Alberta or Saskatchewan."

Another 30 per cent of Winnipeggers said they think the city spends about the right amount on its police, while 20 per cent said funding should be increased and 14 per cent said they didn't know.

High percentage of city budget

The survey report cited a recent analysis in the Globe and Mail that showed Winnipeg's police service had one of the highest percentages of its city's 2019 budget (27 per cent), compared to police budgets across the country. 

It came behind the police budget in Surrey, B.C., which made up 29 per cent of the city's total budget that year, and the one in Longueuil, Que., which made up 30 per cent.

Though the desire to cut police spending was greater, among Canadians surveyed, than the desire to increase it, respondents were most likely to say current spending is about right, with 38 per cent expressing that opinion.

The survey report also suggested that nearly one in five Canadians —19 per cent of those surveyed — don't know how they feel about police spending.

Meanwhile, the same proportion of Winnipeggers who supported cutting the city's police budget said they think there's a serious problem with how police interact with Black and Indigenous people, as well as other people of colour, in their community. 

That proportion, 36 per cent, was among the highest across the country, behind only Halifax at 39 per cent and the Greater Toronto Area at 41 per cent.

"Much of this has less to do with empirical evidence around dollars and actual dollars spent and a lot more to do, I think, with the way people perceive the way police are deployed in the community," Kurl said.

Interactions with people of colour

Just under one-third of those surveyed in Winnipeg, 29 per cent, said they felt the way police interact with people of colour in their community was sometimes a problem, but not a major one. Another 20 per cent said they felt there is no problem, while 15 per cent said they weren't sure.

The survey suggests that Canadians are more likely to believe there's a problem with how police treat people of colour in the country at large — 39 per cent surveyed said there's a serious problem — than in their own community (31 per cent said there's a serious problem in their own province, and 27 per cent said that problem exists in their own community).

"I think that is driven in part by a lot of the broader headlines that we read from other parts of the country, regardless of where we live and say, 'Oh, well, that's happening over there. That is a problem,'" Kurl said.

Another interesting finding, she says, is the survey suggests two-thirds of Canadians believe the RCMP is systemically racist.

"That is a pretty significant finding and it represents an ongoing problem for for that institution," she said.

The online survey was conducted and commissioned by the Angus Reid Institute. It was done between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1 among a representative randomized sample of 5,005 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.

For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.