The Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board has a long history of engaging mayoral candidates campaigning to be the next mayor of the City of Winnipeg. Representing over 2,400 REALTOR® Members, the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board has a vested interest in connecting with candidates to learn more about their plans on matters that affect the health of the real estate market and homeownership for Winnipeggers.
This is the next submission in our special weekly feature leading up to election day on October 26 called “A Conversation with 2022 Mayoral Candidates” where candidates share their vision. Scan the QR code above to listen to Robert-Falcon Ouellette’s podcast interview.
By Robert-Falcon Ouellette
There is a tradition in Winnipeg of letting politicians dictate what they think are the solutions to the issues facing our city. The other side of that tradition is that the solutions always seem to be “same old, same old”, with little to no evidence of real progress.
I have a vision where our children could ride a city bus without our being afraid that they will not arrive home safe. Of course it is not acceptable that people have been reduced to living in bus shelters. We should not find it acceptable that our police have been unable to come to grips with crime or the solving of crimes.
We all want a better city and we all know the litany of challenges we face: homelessness, mental health, addictions, housing shortages, unemployment, infrastructure, policing, firefighting and paramedic services. In my view, there are many citizens among us who already know the best solutions to our most pressing issues — workers, elders, brothers, sisters and young people who are willing to put the effort and time into making the city a better place. We need to listen to them. They are the resource we need to engage with.
When I was elected as a Member of Parliament, I thought elected officials at all levels would talk to each other and discuss what we need to do collectively. I was mistaken. In fact, apart from saying hello at a press conference or a quick chat at a BBQ, there is very little contact between officials. This is wrong.
When it comes to issues of homelessness, mental health and addictions, we must be tenacious about opening lines of communication with community groups and organizations that deal with these issues every day. They have the expertise to assist in creating effective strategies. Bringing these resources together and coordinating them into positive change takes leadership that can only come from the mayor’s office.
This is not a revolutionary concept. It is common sense. Sit down, talk for as long as we need to, create an action plan, share the action plan, then follow up with the action plan. We must never stop asking “What have we done to fulfill the priorities in our action plan?” We must have a vision and leadership to do just that.
Winnipeg boasts some of the highest police spending per capita of any major Canadian city, with the 2022 Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) Budget exceeding $310 million and accounting for over 26% of the City of Winnipeg’s total budget. However, ever-increasing WPS funding has had little impact on the crime Winnipeggers see and face day to day. Violent crime, property crime; all crimes are up year-over-year and have begun to top 5-year averages.
The police budget is more than what we devote to recreation, parks, urban forestry, community liveability, libraries, arts, entertainment, culture and even insect control, combined. All items that can help address the root causes of crime. Along with Winnipeggers patience, police find themselves stretched thin reacting to increasing numbers of 911 calls. The police are treated like a Swiss army knife for the city’s problems, expected to respond to calls they are not trained for; calls better suited to health and social service organizations.
What the City has been doing isn’t working and throwing more money at the WPS isn’t the answer. If we want to build our city, a city that is safe, thriving and livable, we need to rethink how we deal with crime prevention and crime solving.
As Mayor, I will coordinate a community-focused approach to safety that includes community organizations and the efforts of the WPS, enhanced training for officers and a full review of the WPB and WPS. It is time to redefine our relationship with the Winnipeg Police Service. We expect more.
We will create a Community Safety and Innovation Fund and freeze the police budget at its current level, $310 million, for four years. This fund would be open to applications by community organizations and the Winnipeg Police Service to provide funding for proactive programs that would reduce crime. It is important that the city help identify community groups who could use this type of funding. A City Council committee would establish priorities and measurable outcomes to evaluate different funding proposals from community groups and the police. A community group may partner with the police, which would result in a true community partnership with the police.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The goal is to take a load off of the police so they can focus on what they do best.
The WPS and City must be innovative in its crime prevention and crime solving measures. We want to see a significant reduction in the crime rate and an improvement in the WPS’ ability to solve crimes given its existing budget.
Visit robertfalcon.ca for more info.
The Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board is a non-partisan organization that works with all elected officials in support of our Members and a better Winnipeg for all its citizens. Nothing in the podcast or this publication should be seen as an endorsement of any candidate in Winnipeg’s civic election by the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board.
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Listen to the Podcast version