Cities ‘not afraid’ to drop RCMP over costs

Feds show little flexibility on policing contract: Fassbender

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender is the UBCM's observer in RCMP contract negotiations.

B.C. cities are again threatening to abandon the RCMP if Ottawa won’t bend in negotiations underway to renew the force’s contract.

That’s remains a real possibility, said Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, after Alberta and Saskatchewan “broke ranks” and signed a new 20-year RCMP contract that delivers none of the cost-control measures B.C. municipalities have been demanding.

“We – and the other provinces and territories – are not afraid to look at the alternative, which would be forming our own provincial forces,” he said.

The Prairie provinces agreed to keep the existing cost-sharing formula, which makes cities with more than 15,000 population pay 90 per cent of municipal RCMP costs and requires smaller cities to pay 70 per cent, while Ottawa covers the rest.

“That deal is not a deal that we’re prepared to sign,” said Fassbender, who is the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ observer in the talks and co-chairs a committee of mayors of RCMP-served cities in the Lower Mainland.

B.C. and its cities had been pressing the federal government to shoulder a bigger share of the costs.

So far, Fassbender said, Ottawa has suggested it could increase its subsidy from 10 to 30 per cent for officers who serve on integrated regional policing teams, but not for the bulk of detachments where the 90-10 split would still apply in larger cities.

Nor, he said, is there any sign of progress on other major cost drivers of the RCMP, including the medical plan and pension benefits that are “one of the richest in the public sector.”

B.C. cities, some of which spend a quarter of their budgets on policing, complain  climbing pay, benefits and equipment costs are making the Mounties unaffordable.

Fassbender noted Saskatchewan and Alberta both got a me-too clause that guarantees they get the benefit of any improved deal the federal government might sign with B.C.

B.C.’s current RCMP contract expires in March but can be extended if a new agreement isn’t reached in time.

Any new deal will also include the same exit clause that’s in the current contract.

Fassbender said it lets any city or province terminate the RCMP with two years’ notice.

There have been repeated calls over the years for Metro Vancouver to adopt a regional police force.

Advocates say it would be better equipped to bust gangs and other criminals who don’t care about civic borders.

But Fassbender said he would still prefer to keep the RCMP, which he said provide a high quality of policing.

“Nobody has convinced me that making a change will be in the best interest of our taxpayers and crime on our streets,” he said.

The Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver is not a good reason to pursue a regional force, Fassbender added.

Several cities would have serious concerns about the potential costs and reduced local service levels if their local police were replaced by a regional force, he said.

There are 11 RCMP detachments in the Lower Mainland, including Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver and Surrey – where the RCMP’s new E Division headquarters is under construction.

Seven cities are policed by municipal forces.