Canadians see Winnipeg as most dangerous city in country, poll says

The Mainstreet/Postmedia poll says Canadians rank Ottawa as the safest among 15 major cities, while Winnipeg sits dead last.

Winnipeggers need to be ambassadors for their city and change the perception, mayor says

Winnipeg Police have arrested a 26-year-old woman for allegedly driving on a sidewalk in an attempt to hit pedestrians at The Forks. (CBC)

Winnipeg is seen as the most dangerous city in Canada, a poll released Tuesday suggests.

The Mainstreet/Postmedia poll of 4,213 Canadians ranks Ottawa as the safest among 15 major cities while Winnipeg sits dead last.

The survey is based on the perceived safety of cities, not the actual data, said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research, who noted that numbers recently released by Statistics Canada show Saskatoon actually has the highest crime rate in the country.

In the Mainstreet poll, that city ranks 12th out of 15 cities for safety.

"Perceptions compared to Statistics Canada's Crime Severity Index yields some interesting comparisons," Maggi said.

Toronto, for example, ranks 14th out of 15 in terms of perceived safety in the Mainstreet poll. But when it comes to actual crime statistics, it is one of the safest cities. It has the second best crime severity index, behind only Quebec City and ahead of Ottawa, which Canadians perceive to be the safest.

"There's been a lot of news in recent years about crime in Winnipeg specifically, and you know, a lot of the time it involves young people, children. I think that's what's driving these numbers," Maggi said.

"Sometimes there is a historical component where people still perceive a particular city over a particular incident, and there's very little you can do to sort of counter those types of perceptions. You can only work on the reality, on the actual number."

Winnipeg's actual crime severity index is better than Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon in terms of safety.

"The results paint an interesting portrait of how we see each other," said Maggi.

The following are the rankings from the Mainstreet poll:

  1. Ottawa (72% see it as safe, 16% see it as unsafe, 12% are unsure). Net score: 56%
  2. Charlottetown (65% see it as safe, 18% see it as unsafe, 17% are unsure). Net score: 47%
  3. Moncton (64% see it as safe, 25% see it as unsafe, 11% are unsure). Net score: 39%
  4. St. John's (58% see it as safe, 20% see it as unsafe, 22% are unsure). Net score: 38%
  5. Quebec City (59% see it as safe, 22% see it as unsafe, 19% are unsure). Net score: 37%
  6. Regina (61% see it as safe, 30% see it as unsafe, 9% are unsure). Net score: 31%
  7. Halifax (53% see it as safe, 28% see it as unsafe, 19% are unsure). Net score: 25%
  8. Victoria (58% see it as safe, 33% see it as unsafe, 9% are unsure). Net score: 25%
  9. Vancouver (52% see it as safe, 36% see it as unsafe, 12% are unsure). Net score: 16% 
  10. Calgary (54% see it as safe, 38% see it as unsafe, 8% are unsure). Net score: 16%
  11. Edmonton (52% see it as safe, 41% see it as unsafe, 7% are unsure). Net score: 11%
  12. Saskatoon (45% see it as safe, 40% see it as unsafe, 15% are unsure). Net score: 5%
  13. Montreal (45% see it as safe, 44% see it as unsafe, 11% are unsure). Net score: 1%
  14. Toronto (46% see it as safe, 47% see it as unsafe, 7% are unsure). Net score:  –1%
  15. Winnipeg (35% see it as safe, 56% see it as unsafe, 9% are unsure). Net score: –21%

'More work to do,' mayor says

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he is personally working to change perceptions of this city, and he encouraged all Winnipeggers to become strong ambassadors for their home.

Calling himself an "unapologetic champion for Winnipeg," Bowman said he has travelled much of the country trumpeting the good things the city offers. And while he believes perceptions are changing, the Mainstreet poll "demonstrates we have more work to do," he said.
Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg (left), and Mayor Brian Bowman speak to reporters at City Hall on Tuesday. (CBC)

The facts are that crime is on the decrease in the city, more visitors are coming to Winnipeg year after year, and National Geographic named the city one of the best places on earth to visit in 2016, he said.

"But the facts and the perception don't jive," so it's up to everyone who cares about Winnipeg to help improve that perception, Bowman said.

"I want everyone in Canada to know what an incredible community this is."

Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said the city is doing what it can to attract big sporting events and conventions because "we know from all the polls we do when [those visitors] leave, that they are blown away by the city.

"They love what we have to offer."

Her suggestion? Instead of talking about mosquitoes and cold weather and potholes, Winnipeggers need to talk about the human rights museum and The Forks, as well as downtown developments still in the works, such as True North Square and the Inuit Art Gallery.

The poll by Mainstreet Research, released on Tuesday, was conducted using a random survey sample of 4,213 Canadians on Aug. 3-4, 2016. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 1.52 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


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