by Colin Smith
Morinville Town Council appreciates and supports the local RCMP detachment, and they want everyone to know it.
Councillors also want everyone to know that they oppose replacing the RCMP in Alberta with a provincial police service.
At the regular Council meeting Mar. 9 they unanimously passed a motion to have Mayor Barry Turner send a letter to Kaycee Madu, Alberta Minster of Justice and Solicitor General expressing support for the RCMP and opposing the creation of a provincial police service.
The letter was to be copied to others including Premier Jason Kenney, Morinville-St. Albert MLA Dale McNally, the commanding officer of the RCMP in Alberta and members of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).
Moved by Councillor Sarah Hall, the motion was in response to a letter received from the Council of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.
Directed to the Minister of Justice and copied to AUMA and RMA members, the Crowsnest Pass letter put forward its objections to the concept of replacing the RCMP in its role of policing rural Alberta and some of its cities and towns.
The creation of a provincial police service was one of the recommendations in the June 2020 report of the Fair Deal Panel, a group put together by the Provincial Government with a mandate to find ways to strengthen Alberta’s role in Canada.
“We do not understand why the Province would forge ahead with this process when the Fair Deal Panel survey results clearly showed that 65% of respondents did not support this idea,” the letter stated. “These are tangible results from a provincial survey which need to be recognized by the Province as a negative response, and a clear indicator by the people of this Province that the majority is not in favour of a provincial police force.”
The Crowsnest Council also pointed to the high price the Province could be expected to pay as a result of such a changeover.
“The staggering costs to implement an initiative of this nature should be enough of a deterrent to even consider proceeding. Municipalities across this Province are struggling to determine how they will absorb the costs for the existing police funding model and should not be expected to consider facing additional expenses for an initiative that is unwanted and appears to have no ceiling where potential costs are concerned.”
The letter referred to information about transitions away from the RCMP provided at the AUMA President’s Summit in February. That included the fact that in moving to its own municipal police the City of Surrey, BC has faced major cost overruns and other problems. Richmond, BC examined the prospect and then decided to stick with the RCMP.
In the discussion of the letter Councillor Rebecca Balanko also pointed to the AUMA meeting.
“Within the AUMA where you had 630-plus Councillors and staff when you had a straw poll in favour of the RCMP, I think it’s important we sat up and have a voice on this one,” Balanko said. “The relationship with our RCMP is something pretty spectacular. So I think it’s vital we step up and say something.”
Councillor Sarah Hall declared that quick action is needed.
“They’re wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on doing this research, that comes from taxpayers,” she said. “And the longer this goes on the more money it is costing.”
Following the passage of the motion to have the Mayor send out a letter, Hall moved to refer the issue to the Agenda Review Committee, to schedule a further discussion at a future meeting. This was also carried.
Among Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police and do not employ the RCMP for local policing. In Newfoundland and Labrador, policing duties are shared between the RCMP and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
Historically, the Alberta Provincial Police was formed in 1917 and continued until 1932, when contract policing by the RCMP was instituted.