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Red Deer-South NDP candidate says replacing the RCMP was already found to be too costly

The UCP government’s plan makes no sense, says Michelle Baer, a city solicitor
Red Deer-South NDP candidate Michelle Baer (right) and NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir (left) spoke Wednesday in Red Deer against the provincial government’s plan to replace the RCMP with a provincial police force. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)

Red Deer South NDP candidate Michelle Baer says the City of Red Deer already studied and rejected the idea of replacing the RCMP, so she doesn’t get why the provincial government is so intent on creating a provincial police force.

“The cost would be high, there would also be redundancies and duplication,” said Baer.

As the City of Red Deer’s solicitor, she’s very familiar with the 2020 KPMG report that was commissioned by Red Deer city council that concluded ousting Red Deer RCMP to create a municipal police force made no fiscal sense.

Besides the high start-up cost of training and equipping municipal police officers, there would also be higher ongoing operating costs, said Baer.

KPMG also found a need to be “very deliberate in collaborating” to make it work, she said. Baer noted a municipal police force would still have to work with the RCMP on various national cases and would benefit from tapping into federal expertise in several other specialty areas, including bomb disposal. The report also found there was a seamless sharing of services, information and assets as part of a national force.

If the RCMP in Alberta was replaced by a provincial police, the new force would still likely have to rely on some RCMP expertise — as well as collaborating with municipal police forces in Edmonton, Calgary and even places such as Lacombe.

“The UCP government is not well known for working together or collaborating,” said Baer.

Alberta NDP’s justice critic Irfan Sabir, who was in Red Deer on Wednesday at a press conference with Baer, wonders why the UCP government is so “hell bent” on sticking Albertans with the extra cost of switching from the RCMP to a provincial police force during “the worst affordability crisis in 40 years?”

Studies have already shown it doesn’t make financial or logistical sense, he said, adding this money would be better spent on beefing up rural policing efforts.

Most Albertans don’t want the change, and rural and urban municipalities are also against it, Sabir added. “Nobody can really tell why the UCP are keen on this idea… The NDP will make it an election issue.”

Sabir added that more than 70 Alberta municipalities have penned a letter to the provincial government expressing concerns about the additional costs of having a provincial force — including a start-up costs of $366 million.

“The lack of answers from the UCP and the growing opposition for the provincial policing model among Albertans and municipal leaders, it’s clear that the UCP must scrap this plan,” said Sabir, who considers it “an expensive and unnecessary scheme.”

A spokesperson for Alberta Justice could not be reached for comment late on Wednesday afternoon.

But Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro stated that the provincial police force model would add more front-line officers to 42 of Alberta’s smallest municipalities. Shandro added last week that the move is meant to prioritize policing in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

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