THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro is once again appealing to the provincial and federal governments to help kill a deadly gang problem plaguing Thunder Bay.
The city, already the murder capital of Canada two years running, has been dealing with an unprecedented problem of gang-related murders in recent years, the killings becoming more and more brazen, often happening in broad daylight.
As out-of-town gangs battle for Thunder Bay’s lucrative drug-trade turf, putting local gang members in their crosshairs, Mauro said if the province doesn’t want to help or can’t come to the table with the necessary cash, the city might have to look at reallocating resources to do it themselves.
That could lead to future municipal tax increases or it could mean a loss or reduction of services in other departments to make up the shortfall.
“We know that it’s been about 10 years where we feel like things have begun to change, where the type of crime, the level of crime has dramatically changed in Thunder Bay,” Mauro said on Monday, following an unrelated news conference at city hall.
“Ultimately what can we do about it? One, I think we all feel with the changing nature of the crime that is here now, we need help.”
Mauro said he could see things coming, and while he supports the Toronto guns and gang initiative, Thunder Bay needs support too.
“I said at the time that I hope that the premier would understand that guns and gang activities do not just exist in cities like Toronto, and that cities like Thunder Bay that maybe our geographic isolation had maybe played to our favour and kept some of this crime away, well it’s here now.”
Mauro said if help doesn’t come, a home-made solution will be necessary.
“We obviously need to find internally the resources,” Mauro said. “Either we at council increase the budget for police or we find ways internally, within existing resources within the services to move things around to try to get more people out on the front lines.
“The question is whether or not you can proactively get at some of this.”
Asked if he thought the Ford government was spending more time taking selfies at gas pumps ahead of Monday’s launch of the federal carbon tax than dealing with issues affecting municipalities like Thunder Bay, where gang activity is on the rise, the mayor took the high road, saying he’ll take a wait-and-see approach, knowing at the provincial levels things don’t happen overnight.
Mauro, of course, spent 15 years in the previous Liberal government, including several years at the cabinet table.
That said, it’s time for action, he said.
“It’s a huge concern to city hall, it’s a huge concern to the community. I think that if you get to the point where your community is feeling very vulnerable and at risk, and worried about just going about their everyday lives, it just changes the nature of your community,” Mauro said.