Skip to content

Provincial police force has little rural Alberta support: poll

Fewer than one in four rural Albertans believe the province should set up its own police force, according to a recent University of Lethbridge poll.
A new University of Lethbridge poll shows rural Albertans support the RCMP and have little interest in replacing Mounties with a provincial police force. (File photo by Black Press News Services)

Fewer than one in four rural Albertans believe the province should set up its own police force, according to a recent University of Lethbridge poll.

The online poll had 1,470 respondents, including 505 identified as rural. Among the rural contingent, 54 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with a provincial police force and nearly 23 per cent did not agree or disagree. Only about 23 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with putting provincial police in uniform.

The Rural Perceptions of Policing in Alberta poll was conducted by the university’s Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).

Asked whether the RCMP should be dissolved in Alberta, 76 per cent disagreed and less than nine per cent agreed. Fifteen per cent were neutral.

“The conclusions of this survey for rural Albertans are quite clear, ” said University of Lethbridge political science professor Lars Hallstrom, who authored the poll along with Dr. Tanya Tussler, professor in the Department of Economics, Justice and Social Policy at Mount Royal University.

“Similar to the results of other recent polling, there is limited support for the removal of the existing police structure and replacing it with a provincial police force.

“Although there is some variation, depending on where people live in the province, the emphasis is really upon maintain and improve, not replace.”

When asked about their trust in the RCMP, 66 per cent agreed or strongly agreed they had a “high level of trust” in Canada’s national police force. Less than 15 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The RMA, which represents 69 counties and municipal districts, has previously voiced its opposition to a provincial police force, believing a better approach is to improve the RCMP to address rural crime concerns.

“At the end of the day, our priority is safe communities,” said RMA president and Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin. “The RMA and its members support the work of the RCMP to address rural crime and don’t see any need for a fundamental change to how policing is delivered.

“The results of this survey show that individual rural Albertans share a similar view.”

National Police Federation director Kevin Halwa said the results come as no surprise and largely mirror the findings of numerous other polls.

“All have said the same thing. There is very little appetite for moving towards a provincial police force. The RCMP are well supported across the province and the taxpayers of Alberta want to keep them,” said Halwa, whose organization represents 20,000 Mounties across the country.

Halwa said it is puzzling why the provincial police force issue still appears to be lurking at the provincial government level, despite little evidence there is support for it and that it would address any of the public’s concerns about enforcement.

The best theory is that the provincial government sees dropping the RCMP as a way to push back against Ottawa’s influence.

As a fifth-generation Albertan, Halwa understands the province’s desire for greater autonomy.

“So I get the desire to have less Ottawa in our lives. I totally get that.”

But of all of the federal programs, the RCMP policing contract is one of the best deals the province gets. “With the cost structure and the feds picking up a portion of the tab, this is one of the few things that Alberta does get a smokin’ deal on.

“To turn a blind eye to that and throw that away seems ridiculous.”

The Alberta government has repeatedly said it has made no decision on whether to transition to a provincial police force. However, the government has provided funding for municipalities which are interested in undertaking feasibility studies on replacing RCMP with municipal, regional or provincial police forces.

News tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
Read more