April 3, 2018 2:07 pm
Updated: April 4, 2018 11:30 am

FIPPA documents show how easy it was to rent Air1 for film production

WATCH: It started with an email to the city's Film and Special Events Manager, which was then forwarded to the chief of police. Global's Brittany Greenslade reports.

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It took just a handful of emails over the course of a week to make the unprecedented decision by police to rent out the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) helicopter for a film production.

READ MORE: Taxpayer-funded Winnipeg police chopper used for film shoot

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Documents obtained by Global News through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request (FIPPA) show the simple steps taken by a local production centre to gain permission to use the Air1 helicopter in a movie being filmed in La Salle last December.

The request

An email was initially sent to Kenny Boyce, the city’s Film and Special Events Manager on Oct. 31, 2017 with the request and then forwarded to the chief of police.

“Kindly advise if a local film company could rent the WPS helicopter for (redacted),” reads the email from Boyce. “It would be treated similar to a special duty situation where they would pay for WPS members and use our heli.”

According to police, “special duty” is when off-duty police officers are assigned as resources for any contracting party or organization other than the WPS — essentially, officers who are providing security for an event.

Most commonly, these assignments would include high school graduations, Blue Bomber or Jets games, concerts and/or religious events.

These officers are in standard uniform and there is a fee associated.

When asked in January the city refused to specify exactly what the helicopter was doing, how much it cost and why public equipment was flown when there are dozens of rental choppers available that are not paid for by taxpayers.

Global News filed a FIPPA to try and get more information on how the application came in and what the city charged, but the specifics of the request from the production company were blacked out. In the documents, the city said some of the information had been covered because further disclosure could be ‘harmful to a third party’s business interests’.

Global News previously confirmed Air1 was used for a 72-minute commercial film shoot for the upcoming movie starring Aaron Paul from AMC’s TV series Breaking Bad.

The flight program falls under the authority of Deputy Chief Gord Perrier.

READ MORE: Flight hours, calls for service down for Winnipeg police helicopter in 2016

Documents show Perrier approved the use of the helicopter “as long as maintenance and emergencies don’t conflict.”

In an email statement to Global News in January police said, “at no time did Air1 carry passengers, cargo or lift anything for the shoot. No incidents requiring Air1 to divert occurred during its use.”

How the decision was made

The decision to allow Air1 to play a role in the film was criticized by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Mayor Brian Bowman.

“What’s different about the helicopter is we only have one,” Bowman said Jan. 9. “It’s a highly specialized, unique piece of equipment. If something had happened to that helicopter while it was out of the city, we don’t have re placement we could get. I had concerns and I raised them with the chief of police and they’re being addressed.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg mayor calls for more common sense

While the Winnipeg Police Board has no role in the day-to-day operational matters involving WPS, they do act as a conduit between the police, elected officials and the public.

In an email to Global News Board Chair David Asper said there were three criteria the request needed to meet in order for it to be approved by police:

  1. there can be no risk to public safety or the dedicated mission of Air1;
  2. there should be no cost to taxpayers; and
  3. the use of Air1 should be evaluated as part of good corporate citizenship by the Service in a way that isn’t designed to be competitive with the private sector.

Asper told Global News the Board was satisfied the service had done “proper due diligence and appropriate consideration was given.”

The Service had also cleared this with the Materials Management and Legal Services departments of the City, according to Asper.

Moving forward

Global News has asked the city if other pieces of taxpayer-funded equipment have been requested and/or used in film or television productions in Manitoba but has yet to receive a response.

RELATED: Effectiveness of Winnipeg’s Air1 operations to be reviewed

Asper said the board recognizes there are differing views in what might be deemed appropriate or not by the public and the mayor, and said neither himself nor the board presume they are the ones that have the ‘correct’ view.

“The view of the Mayor, other City Councillors and members of the public is important as we gauge community needs, values and expectations,” Asper said.

The board plans to engage in further talks with the community in the coming months to determine how Winnipeggers feel.

“This is one of the topics that we’ll be canvassing with both elected officials and the public, and I expect that we’ll have something to say about it later in the year,” Asper said. “The issue has both a specific application to the helicopter but also may affect other ways in which the Service supports the community, so we want to give it full consideration.”

Taxpayers paid $3.5 million to purchase Air1.  In 2016 the police chopper cost nearly $2 million to operate.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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