First attack ad of 2018 Winnipeg mayoral race targets incumbent Brian Bowman
Police union TV spot alleges 911 operator shortage
The first attack ad of the 2018 mayoral race claims Winnipeg has a shortage of 911 operators and suggests Mayor Brian Bowman is to blame.
The Winnipeg Police Association has produced a 30-second television ad featuring the image of frightened girl hiding in a closet as her 911 call goes unanswered.
"Why is Winnipeg 911 not fully staffed? Ask Mayor Bowman," a narrator says while a shadow inches closer to the girl.
"When you dial 911, every. Second. Counts."
Moe Sabourin, president of the police union, says the ad will air once a day on commercial TV. He said the ad campaign is motivated by what the union considers inadequate funding for the Winnipeg Police Service.
He could not say how many more 911 operators are needed in Winnipeg or quantify the shortage suggested by the ad, but he insisted callers are being left on hold.
"Probably the worst one I heard was yesterday, where someone was on the rotator for 18 minutes before their 911 call was answered," Sabourin said outside his Broadway-Assiniboine office.
The Winnipeg Police Service said 911 calls are being answered "within expectations" and says it has only three vacancies within its 911 call centre.
Those vacancies will be filled in January, police spokesperson Kelly Dehn said in a statement.
No 911 cuts: Bowman
Mayor Bowman said there have been no cuts to 911 and suggested the ad amounts to fearmongering by the police union.
"Their criticism and attacks have been very consistent since we started building in more sustainable budgets," Bowman said Wednesday at city hall, citing repeated police union complaints about funding.
The mayor also said he wants the public to take note of the Winnipeg Police Association's political activities.
"We don't want to see a return to the days when this union and other special interest [groups] were calling the shots at city hall," he said, asking whether the ad was made to benefit Jenny Motkaluk, a mayoral challenger.
WPA officials have attended Motkaluk events, but both the candidate and Sabourin say there is no endorsement.
She said while she was not aware of the ad, she's receptive to the union's message.
"We did have a violent summer and it's clear public safety has been top of mind for a lot of people," she said at her campaign office in St. James.
Winnipeg's civic election is on Oct. 24.