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Winnipeg’s downtown safety plan could be a template for Brandon – Brandon Sun

Winnipeg’s downtown safety plan could be a template for Brandon – Brandon Sun
Winnipeg’s downtown safety plan could be a template for Brandon – Brandon Sun

Opinion

It’s an announcement that was made in Winnipeg that should get attention here in Brandon.

On Tuesday, Premier Wab Kinew announced that his government is “enhancing public safety and well-being in Winnipeg by implementing a city centre safety action plan,” which he said will take effect immediately.

At a press conference to announce the new plan, Kinew said, “When someone is in crisis, when someone is misbehaving on the street, we want to provide health care to that person, but the desire to respond with compassion and health care cannot be an excuse for inaction in the face of the issues that we see are causing other Manitobans to feel threatened or unsafe.”

The McKenzie Seeds building in downtown Brandon. On Tuesday, Premier Wab Kinew announced that his government is “enhancing public safety and well-being in Winnipeg by implementing a downtown safety action plan,” which he said will take effect immediately. The question to ask is not necessarily, “Why isn’t Brandon getting something similar,” but rather, “Has anyone from Brandon developed such a plan or asked the province for funding?” (File)

Following Kinew, Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham told the media in attendance: “We want to make sure that people who are struggling with addictions, mental health issues or housing issues have access to the support they need.

“At the same time, we cannot allow sick people to determine the state of our center,” he added. “We cannot be constantly threatened by security problems … Together we are taking decisive action to make our center safer and more secure for everyone.”

Under the new plan, which was developed in response to concerns from residents, workers, businesses and organizations in downtown Winnipeg, the province will contribute nearly $1.5 million to expand community safety patrols and mental health training for downtown partners.

That includes up to $1,063,000 for a detox center at the N’Dinawemak facility on Disraeli Highway, which, according to the government press release, “will support new health and mental health functions at the detox center, as well as associated capital improvements.”

The province is also contributing more than $435,000 in “comprehensive support” to Winnipeg’s Downtown Community Safety Partnership, to increase that organization’s visibility in the city’s downtown. That money is supplemented by $100,000 from Gillingham’s office, along with $50,000 from the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone.

Finally, there is also a $100,000 contribution from the province “for mental health training for city centre partners who provide mental health and wellbeing services.”

It was also announced that the Downtown Community Safety Partnership and Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service have developed a new integrated system that allows the two organizations to coordinate calls via shared radio systems and computer-aided dispatching. By doing this, the two organizations can communicate on the same radio frequency and send the appropriate response to a situation.

This is the point in the discussion where many Brandon residents wonder why a similar plan is not being implemented for downtown Brandon, which suffers from many of the same safety issues as downtown Winnipeg and carries many of the same negative impacts.

These citizens could even argue again that Brandon is receiving too little compared to the financial support Winnipeg regularly receives from the province.

They could ask that question and express their complaint, but there are three other questions they should ask first, and they are as follows:

Did Brandon even ask for similar funding for a similar program? Secondly, isn’t it possible, perhaps even likely, that the new safety measures in downtown Winnipeg are being implemented because the City of Winnipeg, the Downtown Community Safety Partnership, N’Dinawemak, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service worked together to come up with a viable plan to make their downtown safer, which they then submitted to the province for funding?

Finally, is it possible that Brandon will not receive similar funding to solve similar problems this summer because its city leaders and downtown stakeholders have not come up with a comparable plan that justifies provincial funding?

This is not a time to complain about unfair treatment. Rather, it is an opportunity for Brandon’s downtown advocates to observe and learn from the successes and setbacks of this latest Winnipeg plan, and to work together on a viable “made in Brandon” strategy that will make our downtown safer.

To quote the mayor of Winnipeg, we need “decisive action to make our city centre safer and more secure for everyone.”

That’s a goal we can all get behind.