By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The mayor of Winnipeg came out of a sit-down meeting with the prime minister on Monday saying that all levels of government need to work together to tackle a methamphetamine crisis plaguing the city.
Brian Bowman said he asked Justin Trudeau to take stock of the federal government’s efforts to make sure that they align with those of the city and the province.
“We have to work together with our provincial and our federal partners to better address the root causes of crime, but also deal with the meth crisis that we are particularly affected with here in the Prairies and in the city of Winnipeg,” Bowman said.
Bowman’s closed-door meeting with Trudeau came on the second day of a three-day federal cabinet retreat in the city.
Winnipeg was chosen as somewhat of an olive branch to areas of the country that turned from the Liberals in the Oct. 21 election. The party lost three of seven seats in Manitoba and was shut out of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Manitoba’s premier also had a meeting with Trudeau on Monday. Brian Pallister said it’s important to continue a tripartite approach to public safety.
Bowman had called for a face-to-face meeting with Pallister and Trudeau in November after a rise in violence in Winnipeg and a record-breaking number of homicides, including the killing of a three-year-old boy.
Bowman said he’s spoken with both leaders separately about the issue and is happy with progress, despite all three having not sat down together.
Winnipeg’s police chief has said much of the city’s violent crime is linked to addictions and methamphetamine. There were 44 homicide victims in the city last year, up from 22 in 2018.
The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba says meth use has increased by more than 100 per cent in adults and nearly 50 per cent in youth since 2014.
When asked about a ban on assault rifles, which was part of the Liberals’ election platform, the mayor said he did not talk about it in his meeting with Trudeau. But Bowman suggested if there were to be a ban, it would have to be a national one to avoid confusion regionally.
A Winnipeg city councillor recently called for handguns to be banned in Winnipeg after a fatal shooting at a downtown hotel. A police spokesperson suggested the ban would not make a difference.
Bowman said changes shouldn’t only come from policing. There must also be strategies for mental health, addictions and families in crisis — which often fall out of the city’s jurisdiction.
He said Winnipeg has created a first-of-its-kind illicit drug strategy task force and all levels of government have been taking steps to implement its recommendations.
“We know a lot more work needs to be done.”