By Cole Parkinson
With plenty of discussions across the province around policing within Alberta, Town of Vauxhall council have also started discussing what it would mean for the municipality.
With small municipalities in Alberta now paying for their policing, the talks of a new provincial police force is another concern for those same towns.
“We received a bill for last year — $21,006.32,” stated Wendy Bergen, Town Chief Financial Officer at the town’s Apr. 19 meeting.
While municipalities weren’t overly shocked they were going to be asked to pay for their policing once the UCP were elected, they are still waiting on a higher level of service within their municipality.
“AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) is still advocating on the policing costs. Asking those questions like why don’t we have the advanced policing that we were promised,” added Mayor Margaret Plumtree.
“They did talk about the provincial police and how they are still trying to move forward with that. Whereas all us municipalities, when we attended our policing session through AUMA, AUMA gave a really natural presentation and all municipalities were like ‘it’s going to cost us a fortune.’”
With three provinces currently maintaining their own provincial police — Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador — Plumtree says they’ve been hearing the Albertan government reference the fact Alberta could follow in their footsteps.
“We’re all concerned about how much having our own police will cost. The minister is saying ‘Ontario and Quebec have their own police, so why can’t we?’ but Ontario and Quebec did that many, many years ago,” she said.
Instead, she says the focus should be on supporting what they have before moving to a different police force.
“That’s what we’re advocating for — let’s give the RCMP the support that they need. Let’s give them the money, training and partnerships to make it happen.”
Others also voiced similar concerns around moving toward a provincial police force.
“It’s not the way to go, based on what we’ve seen so far. The letter we got from the minister talks about the cost-benefit analysis and in my experience with cost-benefit analysis, you can take whatever you want from them. It will tell you whatever you want it to tell you,” added Deputy Mayor Ray Coad. “I’m concerned about the direction the province is going. In reading the letter, to me, it tells us that they’re going to go and progress with this, and that’s the not right way to go. They need to talk to municipalities to see if it’s only possible.”
“We’re the ones paying the bill,” added Plumtree. “That’s just our first payment, it goes up every year for four years. If we do our own policing, it’s going to go up even more. The RCMP still have to exist, they’re federal. So we’ll have to pay for federal and provincial.”
Municipal District of Taber council has also discussed the possibility of moving to a provincial police force and expressed a hesitancy to jump fully into it.
“I think before we head down a road we don’t know where we’re going with it, a look at all the different levels of law enforcement we have in the province and the rationale for having all those different departments would serve us (well). I just think we’re going a little too fast here,” said Reeve Harris during an M.D. of Taber regular meeting in March.
M.D. council also had a delegation from Jason Schneider, Vulcan County Deputy Reeve and RMA board of director, late last month.
Schneider stated there had been requests put forward to the government to make the provincial policing report by PricewaterhouseCoopers to be available to the public, but no commitment was made.
Vauxhall town council also brought up the fact a nearby town had explored moving to their own police force before deciding to go with the RCMP.
“The Town of Coaldale started out with their own police force. They abandoned that, contracted the City of Lethbridge and now they’re back with the RCMP. That tells you something,” added Coad.
Coaldale had also approved the development of an RCMP detachment building beside Highway 3 and construction is still ongoing.
The project has a total estimated cost of $11.7 million and construction is projected to be completed later this year.
Plumtree suggested reaching out to Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig to gathering his feedback on the policing situation. “It would be interesting to hear their story and reasons,” she said.