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Mayors to have more input in B.C.'s new policing deal with RCMP

Mar 22 2012

The province has signed a 20-year deal with the RCMP, promising more input for local mayors, an opt-out clause and an opportunity to re-evaluate the contract every five years.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond said the biggest change from the previous contract is that mayors now have more control over policing costs and are able to question cost increases or directives that come from RCMP headquarters in Ottawa.

Mayors had previously complained they had little say on changes that have huge financial impacts on their municipality.

“For the first time, municipalities across the province will be able to influence cost and service decisions in an ongoing and co-ordinated way through a new UBCM Local Government Contract Management Committee,” Bond said during a press conference in Surrey.

Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who oversaw the contract negotiations on behalf of B.C. municipalities, said the new agreement gives local mayors the chance to be a part of a decision and discuss options with the local detachment commander instead of the previous scenario where additional costs were forced upon the municipality.

The funding formula between municipalities and the federal government will not change. Municipalities with a population over 15,000 will pay 90 per cent of the policing costs while the federal government picks up the rest; Municipalities with a population between 5,000 and 15,000 pay 70 per cent of the cost while the federal government pays 30 per cent and municipalities with a population under 5,000 have the bulk of their costs covered by the provincial government.

Municipalities will see a budget increase of less than one per cent this year.

There is also the ability to review the contract every five years. Municipalities and the province can opt out of the contract with two years notice.

The province and the federal government reached a tentative agreement in November 2011 but only today released the actual contract. Bond had previously floated the idea of B.C. setting up its own provincial police force when the provincial and federal government reached a stalemate over negotiations in September, but critics now say that was just a negotiating tactic.

NDP MLA Mike Farnworth said he doesn’t see many significant changes over the last 20-year contract.

“This is total status quo,” he said. “This government has no interest in playing hardball with the federal government whatsoever. Local government has tried harder than the province has.”

Farnworth said the contract doesn’t take into account the huge rise in policing costs associated with the omnibus crime bill that passed this month in the House of Commons.

Sidney Mayor Larry Cross said he believes negotiations have made RCMP senior manager more sensitive to the pressures on small communities with limited budgets.

“Our concerns has been arbitrary decisions made by senior management which flows down to us and have serious financial impacts on our municipality,” he said, raising the example of a recent directive to improve jail cells which the municipality cost over $100,000.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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