Towns get extra month to ink RCMP deal
May 30 2012
B.C. municipalities still on the fence about signing a new RCMP contract will get an extra month to ink the deal or walk away from the Mounties, says Justice Minister Shirley Bond.
The signing deadline had been set for Thursday. Bond said Tuesday she's heard concerns some mayors have expressed about the RCMP's provincial police contract, but warned of consequences if local governments don't decide by June 30.
"At the end of the day, these municipalities are going to have to decide whether they want the RCMP or not," said Bond.
"One of the things they are going to have to make clear to their residents is the fact that if they choose a contract other than the RCMP contract, they will lose the support that the federal government provides for policing.
"I understand several municipalities have said they are not going to sign. I am prepared to extend that deadline to June 30, but there will be consequences at that point."
Local governments will have to submit their police plans in writing by that date, said Bond.
If they don't, she said she'll ask her ministry to look into whether the municipality is adhering to the Police Act, which puts local governments in charge of providing police services to their residents.
B.C. announced a new 20-year provincial police deal with the RCMP last month, after a lengthy negotiation.
The new contract comes with added accountability and cost-control measures that were supposed to placate municipalities concerned about their increasing police budgets.
But several local governments said they were blindsided by RCMP salary hikes of 5.25 per cent over three years, announced soon after the contract was signed. So far, 46 of 62 communities have either signed the RCMP contract or indicated they are about to.
Though some Island communities, such as Nanaimo, have expressed concern about extra costs, it's not believed any of them plan to walk away from the RCMP. On the Lower Mainland, Burnaby has been most vocal about exploring other police options than the RCMP.
NDP critic Kathy Corrigan said the government's inability to give municipalities clear information on costs mean there are too many unknowns for some local governments to sign the new deal.
"I think it is unreasonable to expect municipalities will make this choice for 20 years of policing over the next few weeks," she said.
Corrigan questioned the need for the deadline at all. "What's the rush? Why is there immediacy needed for people to sign? I think it's a pressure tactic."
Federal public safety minister Vic Toews had indicated the wage increases would be offset by $195 million in savings found elsewhere in the RCMP.
Bond told the legislature Monday she had received a letter from Ottawa reaffirming that position in the last two weeks, but still did not have exact numbers.
A ministry spokesperson said the province will work with the municipalities and help them "understand the cost impacts of the changes they're making."