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Bowman butts heads with police union over pension promise

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman makes a campaign announcement at Harrow Park.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman makes a campaign announcement at Harrow Park. Christian Aumell/Global News

If re-elected, Mayor Brian Bowman would do his best to change the way police pension is calculated, he said.

At a campaign announcement Wednesday, Bowman said he would support the removal of overtime when it comes to calculating pensionable earnings.

He said it would create about $1.5 million annually that the service could spend on adding 10-15 front-line officers.

“Ultimately, this is something that would have to be decided by council,” Bowman said. “I would like to see the change made. It brings it in line with our other unions, and I would rather see $1.5 million annually used for front-line services and policing rather than going into pension. It’s better value for tax dollars.”

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Bowman explained that council has the power to make the change without bargaining with the police union, thanks to a bylaw approved by the previous council.

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“If you look at the police pension bylaw, it does provide, in the event of insolvency, the ability for council to make changes, to make the plan more sustainable,” Bowman said.

“At least a year or two ago, that trigger was initiated to make changes. The public service has been working diligently to make changes, make it solvent on a go-forward basis.”

But the head of the Winnipeg Police Association, Maurice Sabourin, is not on the same page as the mayor.

“There’s been conversations but, at the end of the day, the city can’t unilaterally change an agreement because our pension is tied to our collective bargaining agreement,” Sabourin said. “The mayor is grossly misinformed or he’s trying to mislead the public. The pension plan is solvent.”

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Bowman mentioned Sabourin by name a number of times while answering questions from reporters. The two have fired shots across the bow at one another recently after the union started running attack ads against Bowman.

READ MORE: Mayor Bowman denounces police association ad as ‘fear-mongering’

“Police union leadership has a job to look after the interests of union members. As mayor, and as members of council, we have a responsibility to look after all taxpayers and their tax dollars,” Bowman said. “That’s what I’m doing. We’ve heard calls from Mo Sabourin to invest more in front-line policing. This provides us with a path to do that.”

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Sabourin called this campaign promise a ‘deflection tactic.’

“Overtime is a cost of doing business. The pension plan is a joint plan. Our members pay a certain percentage and the city pays a certain percentage,” Sabourin explained.

“We are one of the only police services in Canada that when we go into overtime, our rate is 1.5 times. Other services go two times. Because our overtime is pensionable, we’ve never asked to have that increased.”

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Bowman’s mayoral rival, Jenny Motkaluk, thinks this is a terrible idea.

“All it’s going to do is make the relationship between the city and Winnipeg Police even more adversarial than it already is,” Motkaluk said. “At best, he’s going to be able to put in ten new police officers, who will probably end up spending their shift taking people who are high on meth to HSC emergency.”

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Motkaluk cited her plan, released at the end of August, to create a specialized meth unit at Main Street Project. She said that would free up officers to take better care of the citizens of Winnipeg.

Bowman also promised to create a $100,000 annual fund for community groups to access to help them prevent crime and address safety issues.

Motkaluk pointed out that this fund is very similar to an idea she announced in June, but with $500,000 a year in the fund.

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WATCH: The police helicopter movie appearance, downtown parking issues and taxpayers footing the bill for a union head’s salary… Mayor Brian Bowman reacts to recent headlines. 

Winnipeg mayor calls for more common sense
Winnipeg mayor calls for more common sense