From the sound of it, Premier Jason Kenney’s cut-a-cop approach to trimming the provincial budget isn’t going over well in rural Alberta.
“It’s a money grab,” says Brooks Councillor Bill Prentice.
“This could be a problem for rural communities,” says Sundre Councillor Charlene Preston.
“There will be a number of counties that feel this is a pretty big cost to take on,” says Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuk.
Right now, the United Conservatives are looking for ways to accommodate their $4.5 billion dollar tax giveaway to corporations ahead of a bad news budget. Their latest bright idea? Make people living in rural communities pay for policing. What’s more, while you could be stuck with a huge hike in your property taxes, you won’t see any additional services, or more boots on the ground.
This comes from documents presented by the Alberta Government and presented to municipalities last week. These documents show officials are proposing to offload up to 70 per cent of policing costs onto these municipalities, and also provided estimates outlining how these changes could cost rural Albertans up to $406 per year in tax increases.
These are estimates coming from the Justice Ministry and the Minister responsible hasn’t denied or refuted these facts. Instead, he has chosen to engage in name calling in an attempt to distract from the real concerns of rural Albertans and municipal leaders.
This is a complete 180-degree turn from what the UCP promised during the provincial campaign. When they campaigned on standing up for rural communities and fighting rural crime, they forgot to tell us that rural folks would have to pay for it themselves.
Plain and simple, Jason Kenney and the UCP are breaking a promise. To them, fighting to reduce crime is just a talking point. A play for votes. Nothing made that more clear than the hypocrisy of voting against the Rural Crime Strategy our NDP government introduced 2018 The $10-million investment in the safety of rural Alberta resulted in property crimes falling by nine per cent, 648 fewer motor vehicle thefts and 366 fewer break ins. In fact the RCMP directly attributed the reduction in crime to the initiatives enacted under our Government.
With smaller municipalities left to figure out how to pick up the tab, there aren’t many options. Albertans will pay higher taxes, receive less in services or possibly lose an officer in their community.
It’s a pretty lousy deal for local leaders, law enforcement and the Albertans who choose to settle in small communities and raise their families. They deserve to be safe in their homes and their communities. They deserve a government that is serious about working with municipalities in partnerships to tackle the problem of rural crime.
While he is on his tour of rural Alberta, Minister Schweitzer has two options. He can either drop his plan to slash police funding by 70 per cent or he can start being honest about his plans with Albertans.
Rachel Notley is Alberta’s opposition leader.