Alberta’s rural municipalities have joined their urban counterparts in rejecting a provincial police force.
Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), which represents 69 counties and municipal districts, said on Tuesday that the provincial government has raised more questions than answers in its pursuit of a provincial police force.
“The proposed provincial policing model does not address the RMA’s core priorities about levels of services, how costs will be covered, and local input into policing,” said RMA president Paul McLauchlin in a statement.
“Based on the arguments provided by the province so far, there’s simply no evidence that a switch to a provincial police service will be worth the cost and disruption.”
McLauchlin said in an interview with the Advocate that while the province made a big effort to meet with municipalities, most RMA members were frustrated by the lack of specifics.
“A lot of their questions just weren’t being answered.”
The RMA passed a resolution at its recent spring conference in March supporting the RCMP. Alberta Municipalities, which represents urban municipalities, endorsed a similar show of support last month.
The province has been floating the idea of replacing Alberta’s 3,100 RCMP officers and 1,000 civilians with a provincial force. A PriceWaterhouseCooper study estimated the transition costs alone at $366 million to $371 million depending on the option chosen.
Those estimates are likely to be far off the mark and it could be more than $1 billion based on the costs Surrey, B.C. has faced as it moves to a municipal police force, says the National Police Federation, which represents Canada’s 20,000 Mounties.
The RMA notes that the federal government picks up 30 per cent of RCMP costs, a contribution that would be lost with a provincial force.
“We want to make sure it’s known that our goal is really to support the existing police service that we have provincially and to making it better and not to go down this path, but instead for us to work together to make rural policing more effective for Albertans,” said McLauchlin.
“That’s what our members want and that’s what Albertans want if you look at the results of multiple polling.”
The amount of money it would cost to set up a provincial police force would be far better spent on offering more mental health support and enhancing other social services as well as improving the justice system.
“We want to head this off at the pass and make sure they don’t continue down this path,” McLauchlin said.
Joe Ceci, NDP critic for municipal affairs, criticized the province’s “expensive and misguided scheme” to replace the RCMP.
“Municipal leaders from across the province have made it abundantly clear that they also oppose this idea. Albertans can’t trust the UCP when they refuse to listen to local leaders and press forward with a plan that comes with $366 million in up-front costs,” he said.