‘Limited by resources’: Winnipeg police asking for increase in provincial grants

The Winnipeg Police Service made their preliminary budget ask to City Council on Friday, and police leadership say the unthawing of provincial funds, frozen at 2015 levels, would go a long way helping the service cover costs. Morgan Modjeski reports

By Morgan Modjeski

The province of Manitoba announced more than $51 million for a new violent crime strategy in this year’s budget, but Winnipeg police officials say the service will still have a challenging year ahead when it comes to finances.

“We are limited by resources,” said Chief Danny Smyth. “Clearly if we had more resources, I think we would have a bigger impact.”

The Winnipeg Police Service is asking the city for more than $326 million in its preliminary budget allocation, but the service says that will still fall about $9.2 million short.

The WPS says it’s worked the necessary savings into its budget, but Chief Smyth says an increase in provincial grants, which have remained static since 2015, would go a long way.

Smyth says the $51 million in violent crime funding won’t be used to address local shortfalls.

“You’ve all been around, you can see how inflation has impacted in the last seven years,” he said. “It would be nice if they were able to contribute to the rising costs, because those have been borne by the city, frankly.”

Winnipeg police board

Members of the Winnipeg Police Board at city hall on March 10, 2023. (Credit: CityNews: Morgan Modjeski)

On Friday, police board members heard a list of escalating costs that will make staying on budget challenging. Those included:

  • The need for 18 new 911 operators
  • Inflation
  • Collective bargaining negotiations
  • And replacing aging radio infrastructure

“The biggest challenge for us is people thinking it’s just police, it’s just police,” said Smyth. “Well it isn’t. It’s our community safety net.”

Police board chair and city councillor Markus Chambers says increased funding from the province is required for increasingly complex and technology focused policing.

“It’s challenges across the board, not just policing,” he said.

Winnipeg coun. Markus Chambers at city hall on March 10, 2023. (Credit: CityNews: Morgan Modjeski)

Chambers says repeat over-expenditures by the service in previous years is a sign of the times.

“They’re a mandated service, so they can’t turn off the lights at the end of the money.”

Chambers says while it’s not the role of the board to lobby the province for more funding, he says he’ll be bringing the issue to the province himself.

“We want to have more collaboration with the provincial government to ensure that funding levels reflect the needs of the community,” said Chambers.

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