OTTAWA — The federal government ignores the fact that its law-and-order agenda means higher costs for local cops, the country’s largest police association said Tuesday.
Charles Momy, president of the 41,000-member Canadian Police Association, said municipal police are being saddled with national issues on top of day-to-day crime, but get no extra cash.
Cyber crime — including child pornography, financial fraud and cyber-bullying — along with organized crime, emergency preparedness and national security are devouring police budgets, he said.
“While local police services must respond to traditional law-enforcement issues, there is a greater requirement to put resources into aspects of policing which are broader in scope and are driven by national issues,” Momy told a news conference.
“Changes in federal legislation, while providing important tools to law enforcement, often have significant costs associated with them which place significant pressures on local police budgets.”
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has declared law and order a top priority ever since it was first elected in 2006, despite federal statistics showing crime rates are flat or declining.
The Tories have introduced a series of tough-on-crime bills in the Commons. Harper appointed five new senators in January specifically, said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, to expedite passage of the legislation.
The issue is now front-and-centre as anti-crime and victims’-rights groups meet to mark National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. On Monday, Harper promised to tighten the federal pardons system.
In the Commons on Tuesday, federal ministers tacitly rejected any claims the government is hanging local police out to dry.
“Our Conservative government is committed to working with provincial and municipal governments who are responsible for policing and who have asked for legislative initiatives to keep our streets safe,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in response to a question on the issue.
Nicholson announced a bill had been introduced in the Senate to rid the Criminal Code of the so-called “faint-hope clause,” which allows long-term prisoners to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.
“This is good news for victims and good news for everyone that believes murderers must serve serious time for serious crime,” Nicholson said, calling on all MPs to support the legislation.
In conjunction with the police association’s national meeting, 125 police representatives set up more than 200 meetings with MPs and senators on Tuesday, trying to impress upon them the impact of their decisions and the financial burdens they create.
Said Momy: “We hope to persuade the federal government that they need to be much more sensitive to the impact of their decisions and the financial burden they place on local governments and police organizations.”
A five-year, $400-million police officer recruitment fund is up for federal review and Momy said it needs to be improved, not abandoned. “That commitment cannot just end after five years.”
The association is asking Ottawa to build on the program and provide long-term, sustainable funding for support and recruitment of new officers and development of local police services in general.
“By doing this, the government will show that the safety of our communities and our families continues to be their priority,” said Momy.
The association is also asking for an independent association for RCMP officers after the Ontario Superior Court declared last April that the Mounties’ labour-relations regime is unconstitutional.
The decision said the RCMP’s federally regulated staff relations program was an impediment to the officers’ freedom to associate and engage in collective bargaining.
The judge declared the regime invalid but gave the government 18 months to come up with an alternative.
“We are now calling on Parliament to implement that decision without delay,” said Momy.
“The time has come to recognize members’ rights, respect the court’s decision and to act to implement it as quickly as possible.”
The group also wants the federal government to establish a compensation fund for families of police officers killed in the line of duty. The NDP is tabling a private members’ bill which would cover Mounties.
New Democrat MP Claude Gravelle is proposing “non-partisan” changes to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act that would provide lump-sum benefits of $300,000 to families of slain RCMP officers.
“Our RCMP officers put their lives on the line every day,” said NDP public safety critic Don Davies.
“Although we have a day of commemoration to mark the passing of police officers, this bill takes it one step further beyond symbolism, by providing tangible benefits to grieving families who are coping with the financial impact of losing their loved ones.”
Davies said the legislating the benefit for Mounties would strengthen advocacy efforts at provincial and municipal levels.
Through 160 member groups, the police association includes officers serving in towns, villages and cities along with RCMP, provincial police, railway police and First Nations police.