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Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen speaks to media about his party's crime strategy in Winnipeg on Sept. 6, 2011. (JOHN WOODS/John Woods/The Canadian Press)
Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen speaks to media about his party's crime strategy in Winnipeg on Sept. 6, 2011. (JOHN WOODS/John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba leaders hit campaign trail with crime as major issue Add to ...

Manitoba has the highest violent crime rate in Canada, so it’s no surprise party leaders are talking about how to deal with the problem as they begin campaigning in earnest for the Oct. 4 provincial election.

Statistics Canada reported this summer that Manitoba and Winnipeg once again led the country in violent crimes – including 3.6 murders for every 100,000 people in the province last year.

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It isn’t a new thing. Headlines about “Murderpeg” and “Murder Capital of Canada” have surfaced before.

Street gangs such as the Manitoba Warriors and Indian Posse have been a problem for decades. Bikers can now be added to the crime equation as a spinoff of the Hells Angels and members of the Rock Machine engage in a bloody turf war.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives and the governing NDP are both offering some traditional law-and-order solutions.

Premier Greg Selinger’s New Democrats have made tackling crime No. 4 on their list of five key issues. They are promising “more police, faster prosecutions and tougher consequences,” although their plans have yet to be fleshed out.

On Wednesday, Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen said high-risk sex offenders should have to wear GPS ankle bracelets when they get out of jail.

“We want to make sure that our law enforcement officials have every tool at their disposal to ensure that dangerous offenders are being monitored as they’re out in the community,” he said.

Mr. Selinger didn’t turn up his nose at the idea. His government has already used the bracelets to keep track of high-risk car thieves.

“If somebody is a risk to the public we want to ensure that they serve their full sentence,” he said.

“After they’ve served their sentence, if they need to be monitored, ankle bracelets can be a useful technology.”

Former justice minister Gord Mackintosh says the government was already looking at using the bracelets for a lot more than just sex offenders.

Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill wouldn’t turn down more resources, but he says a lot more has to be done to provide alternatives for young people to keep them off the streets. He also suggests more programs to compliment policing efforts.

“It’s the community at large that has to work hard to reduce the crime in this city and we have a lot of people interested in doing that,” he said when the Statistics Canada numbers first came out.

So far, Liberal Jon Gerrard is the only one of the three party leaders to tackle the issue head-on.

He wants to see another $1.2-million spent to reduce wait times for people seeking treatment for addictions. Mr. Gerrard says research shows 70 per cent of people convicted of violent crimes have substance abuse problems.

“Make sure that people don’t commit crimes in the first place,” he said Wednesday. “It doesn’t solve problems by filling jails up.”

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