by Colin Smith
Alberta should stay the course with policing by the RCMP in rural areas and smaller municipalities rather than forming its own provincial police force. That was the message Morinville Town Council heard at its Committee of the Whole Meeting Tuesday.
The message was presented by Kevin Halwa and Jeff McGowan, directors of the National Police Federation, which represents RCMP members as a collective bargaining agent and advocacy group.
The Federation is seeking Council’s support in opposition to the formation of an Alberta Provincial Police Service, a measure being considered as part of the Fair Deal Panel Review established by the United Conservative Party government.
Halwa pointed to a survey done for the Federation by Pollara Strategic Insights in October of last year.
“There are already early indications that this is not a priority,” he said.
Based on a sample of 1,300 rural and urban residents the survey indicated that 81% of Albertans are satisfied with the service they receive from the RCMP, ranging from 78% in rural northern communities to 87% in rural southern communities.
Half of the survey respondents said the Province should “stay the course” with the RCMP as is, while 36% said it should be retained with improvements. Only 6% chose the option of replacing the RCMP.
Opposition to replacing the RCMP rose after participants were presented with information about potential costs.
According to Federation figures, the Government of Canada provides an annual subsidy of 30%, or $160 million, of the total cost to Alberta of RCMP policing.
“We would potentially see a rise in costs,” said McGregor.
In addition, there would one-time transition costs connected with the establishment of an Alberta police force, plus other ongoing costs for special units, IT, facilities and maintenance, recruitment and training, and pensions that need to be factored in.
McGregor said the Province has received a report on setting up its own police service done by Price Waterhouse Cooper and the Federation is pushing for its release.
“We welcome that examination,” he stated. “I think it will demonstrate that you are getting a pretty good service for the cost.”
McGregor said that rather than establishing its own police force, the Province would be better off using the policing agreement that exists with RCMP to its fullest extent.
In response to a question on the point from Councillor Leonard Giffin, he explained that the agreement provides for police boards and community consultation boards that allow the community to help direct policing issues and priorities.
Giffin, Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein and Councillor Sarah Hall made a point of expressing their satisfaction with the RCMP service to the community.
“We’ve been very happy with the relationship we have with [Sergeant] Chris Palfey and the detachment here in Morinville,” Hall said. “They have been very responsive and we have a great relationship with them.
The presentation was accepted by Council as information.