Alberta’s rural municipalities have joined their urban counterparts in rejecting a provincial police force.
Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), which represents 69 counties and municipal districts, said on Tuesday that the provincial government has raised more questions than answers in its pursuit of a provincial police force.
“The proposed provincial policing model does not address the RMA’s core priorities about levels of services, how costs will be covered, and local input into policing,” said RMA president Paul McLauchlin in a statement.
“Based on the arguments provided by the province so far, there’s simply no evidence that a switch to a provincial police service will be worth the cost and disruption.”
The RMA passed a resolution at its recent spring conference in March supporting the RCMP. Alberta Municipalities, which represents urban municipalities, endorsed a similar show of support last month.
The province has been floating the idea of replacing Alberta’s 3,100 RCMP officers and 1,000 civilians with a provincial force. A PriceWaterhouseCooper study estimated the transition costs alone at $366 million to $371 million depending on the option chosen.
Those estimates are likely to be far off the mark, says the National Police Federation, which represents Canada’s 20,000 Mounties.
The federation points to Surrey, which has been making the transition from RCMP to a municipal police force since 2020. Transition costs estimated at $19 million have topped $80 million and are growing in the community of 440,000. Based on those estimates, the transition could cost Alberta more than $1 billion, says the federation.
The RMA notes that the federal government picks up 30 per cent of RCMP costs, a contribution that would be lost with a provincial force. The $366 million transition estimate “represents a significant unnecessary burden for Alberta taxpayers.”
McLauchlin, who is reeve of Ponoka County, also took aim at the province’s contention that since the RCMP is based in Ottawa it is not accountable to Albertans. That narrative is false, says McLauchlin, adding that policing priorities in Alberta are directed by the premier, justice minister and other government officials, and the budget is set by the province.
“Inserting politics into important decisions about the cost and quality of policing and public safety in the province is quite alarming,” he says. “Spending millions of dollars to shift to an unproven, poorly explained model just for the sake of distancing the province from the federal government would be a major mistake.”
The RMA also points out that one survey showed only nine per cent of Albertans support a provincial force and there does not appear to have been any public consultation.
Rural crime rates, which have been a big concern among rural municipalities for years, are coming down significantly because of RCMP efforts.
“Given these efforts on the part of the RCMP, the RMA believes that the best use of provincial resources is to continue to work to improve the current policing model while also adding much-needed resources to enhance rural social services and support adequate staffing in the justice system.”