Mayor Bowman taps David Asper for police board chair: 'the best person for the job right now”
The group has been down members since the start of the year.
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The Winnipeg Police Board should have a full roster for the first time since February when it meets in May.
Mayor Brian Bowman released his recommendations to replace two board members lost since the New Year on Tuesday.
For the chairmanship, Bowman, who had said he would take his time to choose replacement for Coun. Jeff Browaty, is recommending David Asper.
Asper's no stranger to such positions. He's the current chair of the Asper Foundation and Amenity Health Care, former chair of the Winnipeg Football Club, Winnipeg Folk Festival, and was the first citizen chair of CentreVenture.
In addition to his board experience, Bowman notes Asper also brings a “criminal law background” to the table.
“(He’s) someone who has a masters in law and has been an advocate for the wrongfully (convicted), including successfully defending David Milgaard,” Bowman said. “This is somebody who has extensive experience, and I think he’s the best person for the job right now.”
Browaty resigned from the post Feb. 8 following a call from the board itself for his removal, which in turn was prompted by a lack of confidence expressed by the Indigenous Council on Policing and Crime Prevention.
The council called for his dismissal over comments he made publicly questioning why civic employees should be required to take a half-day training session on the legacy of residential schools.
Bowman said Asper has been a “defender of constitutional rights” and has indicated he’s “very much looking forward to taking the reconciliation training.”
Since Browaty's exit, finance chairperson Derek Johannson also resigned to focus on other volunteer roles, including that of the vice-chairperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
To fill Johannson's seat at the board table, Bowman is recommending Winnipeg pedorthist and business owner Brian Scharfstein, who has served as chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.
Bowman said Scharfstein has done “outstanding work in the area of footwear for the homeless,” like Asper he has board experience, and he’s someone Bowman believes “really cares deeply about the community.”
He also said he’s pleased they were willing to have their names put forward for what he characterized as “thankless work.”
Bowman's council colleague Coun. Ross Eadie will also be pleased.
Eadie has expressed his concerns in the past month that the board was falling behind while shorthanded.
He said the absence of a chair in particular has forced other members to step up and take on more responsibility than they bargained for.
"I don't think it's right," Eadie said in a previous interview, adding, "the board needs leadership."
Bowman thinks Asper will bring the leadership necessary to better rationalize the number of meetings and is “positioned to do a really good job as the new chair of the board.”
The appointee recommendations still require council approval.