By Cole Parkinson
After receiving a letter from the County of St. Paul, who expressed their concern over a potential provincial police force, the Municipal District of Taber once again voiced their issues.
The letter in question was brought to council’s regular meeting May 11.
“There has been no conclusive proof an (Alberta provincial police service) would result in better outcomes, particularly with the expected increase in costs. With our current challenging economic times, our council would like to see your government take time to listen to municipal stakeholders, as well as the respondents of the Fair Deal Panel’s consultations, cancel the transition study and increase the efforts to work (with) the RCMP in achieving better outcomes through the Police Act review,” read a portion of the letter signed by Reeve Steve Upham.
“I did get a chance to read this letter, and I am in support of how they’re laying this out. I agree with the County of St. Paul and I don’t know this is the right time,” stated Coun. John Turcato. “A number of years ago, I guess when Alberta was flush with cash and able to do many things. I believe there needs to be a review of policing, and not so much the RCMP, but just how we deliver law enforcement in the province with multiple levels of policing seem to be chasing the same dollar, which is the speeding tickets, the seatbelt tickets and I don’t know we’re tackling the tougher things. I guess providing lanes for each level of law enforcement and ensuring they stay within them, I don’t know that Alberta has ever done that. That could be money well spent. I don’t know that reviewing the RCMP and trying to replace them with a provincial police force is beneficial at all.”
The County of St. Paul isn’t the first municipality to send letters to the Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu.
“One was from Crowsnest Pass, one from the Town of Vauxhall, one from the County of St. Paul and they’re all basically saying the same thing — they support the RCMP in their area and they’re not sure why the provincial government is trying to push on with developing their own provincial police service,” added Reeve Merrill Harris.
Turcato doubled down stating there’s plenty of different avenues to go down if there’s money to spend.
“Most of these letters are fairly similar,” Turcato agreed. “I believe if there’s money to be spent, the best place to spend it would be reviewing how we’re delivering policing now. By reviewing the RCMP, to replace them with some police force, I don’t think it’s very beneficial. It’s not a very good way to spend money when you don’t really understand, at least I don’t understand how these four or five different law enforcement agencies, and I guess we have reduced one now because the sheriffs have taken over the vehicle inspection, so it’s now under one umbrella. But as far as that goes, having a better understanding of how you keep these different law enforcement groups in their lanes and who decides that? Why haven’t we designed a system that doesn’t have so much overlap? I think we duplicate services here in multiple different places. You can get a speeding or seat belt ticket from four different law enforcement agencies in the same community. It doesn’t seem to be very efficient.”
“If there is a review to be done, it shouldn’t be on the effectiveness of the RCMP. I think they’re doing a pretty good job — but I think we need to review who’s reviewing all of these law enforcement agencies and how we keep them in their lanes,” continued Turcato.
Others on council were concerned about the process so far.
With no real understanding given to municipal councils on why the provincial government wants to shift to a provincial police force, some questioned why the process is continuing ahead.
“I think it would be good to know why they want to make this change. I don’t think we’ve ever really gotten that answer,” said Deputy Reeve Jen Crowson.
“I think it’s good to have multiple levels of enforcement doing similar jobs in a way everybody can’t be everywhere at the same time because sometimes you could have somebody speeding or driving recklessly somewhere — but if only the RCMP can deal with that, that’s not really sufficient either. I think it’s good to see law enforcement levels work together. I think we need to have an understanding of why the change or where is it coming from and what is it being geared from if we have studies saying it’s not beneficial, or there’s no desire from the population of Alberta to push something like this forward. Especially when we’ve elected this government to represent its constituents, why the push or what’s the theory behind it?”
After a recent Mayors and Reeves meeting, a survey was shared and reception to a provincial police force was mixed, at best.
“Only 35 per cent of the respondents to the survey support a provincial police force, 81 per cent of people were satisfied with the RCMP and 70 per cent opposed replacing the RCMP. But yet, the government still wants to push down that street, so I don’t know what another letter does — but at least they know this municipality supports the local RCMP. That’s my feeling,” added Reeve Merrill Harris.
“We have a good relationship with our RCMP locally here and I think they’re doing a good job, personally.”
With PricewaterhouseCoopers conducting a study about the feasibility of a provincial police service in Alberta, council asked when the findings would be available.
“The review was supposed to be complete at the end of last month, correct? So when is the report supposed to come out as to what the findings to do the review. I’m just wondering because we haven’t heard anything about it. These deadlines seem to come and go,” stated Turcato.
“I haven’t heard. It could be the case, but I haven’t heard. If council is looking to develop that correspondence, we can definitely make that known,” replied CAO Arlos Crofts.
Others on council also touched on their support for the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP.
“I believe that was the case — but they did say maybe not all findings would be reported. They were going to have a review in council and let people know. That’s always a concern for me. I’m supportive of asking them why like Coun. Crowson said,” said Coun. Tamara Miyanaga. “If (it) could be proven there’s a cost reduction or an improved service, I would be interested. But right now, the RCMP are providing an excellent service — where we receive reports and like anybody, they would like more people to do more things. But that comes at a cost and I don’t see at this point how a provincial police force can meet that with the same budget.”
A motion for council to prepare a letter to the minister of Justice and solicitor general to express their concern and question on the rationale for researching a province-wide provincial police force replacing the RCMP and to receive a copy of the results was carried unanimously.