It’s an idea the province won’t let go.
Despite receiving pushback from countless organizations, municipalities and associations, the UCP is full steam ahead with bringing in a provincial police force.
While countless questions have been asked over the level of service, the cost breakdown and how much input municipalities would have, the Alberta government has offered little evidence on how shifting from the RCMP would be a benefit.
The UCP has attempted to answer the biggest sticking point – the cost – and on Tuesday (Aug. 16), the party said its plan would add 275 frontline officers to the province’s 42 smallest detachments.
The party also said it would increase access to mental health, addictions and family crisis services, but given the precedent of cutting social services, the government will have to use more than words to have people buy in.
If Alberta were to shift to a provincial force, the 30 per cent in RCMP costs – roughly $200 million – the federal government picks up goes back into federal coffers.
The province would have to dole out $366 million in startup costs over a six-year period to get any provincial service going, according to the 100-page study and 127-page transition report issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers commissioned by the province.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has stated it would cost Alberta $735 million annually to run a provincial service.
In Surrey, B.C. – which is in the midst of transitioning from RCMP to a municipal-run force – initial costs have seen higher than expected in both running and starting the service. With a municipal election upcoming, similar to a provincial election nearing in Alberta, it has become a pivotal issue.
And while the UCP charges ahead – despite the soon-to-be rudderless ship with Premier Jason Kenney set to hit the road – opposition has only increased.
Alberta Municipalities – which represent nearly 300 municipalities – soundly voted to oppose any transition away from the RCMP. The Rural Municipalities of Alberta formally opposed the move and clearly rebuked the plan in the spring when it penned a letter indicating the provincial plan doesn’t meet its member's needs.
The needs of First Nations and Metis have yet to be fully addressed. A survey run by the National Police Federation – which represents RCMP members and has spoken against the plans – had more than 80 per cent polled against the move.
The provincial-struck Fair Deal panel said since the RCMP is based out of Ottawa it leaves them not accountable to Albertans and the provincial government.
If there’s one thing the UCP has shown in the last three years, it’s that they have little interest in accountability.
And while the province has launched a website to reach people, it comes across as nothing more than a sales pitch similar to someone trying to sell a broken pair of golf clubs for full price online.
The plan has received significant pushback from Albertans who prefer the RCMP to anything yet shown to the public, while public engagement has been next to non-existent.
There are more than 3,500 RCMP officers who serve in all but a handful of communities in Alberta. A decision to shift away from the Mounties is far too important to be made as the UCP attempts to distance itself from the federal government at all costs.
At a time when the province should be working with municipalities and RCMP to find areas of improvement and help the justice system by funding more defence lawyers and prosecutors, the move continues to be nothing more than a distraction from real issues the UCP would rather avoid.
The extra money promised to be spent could also be redirected to desperately needed social services across the province.
The provincial government has said it’s an inevitability that a transition away from the RCMP will happen, but rather than admit poor planning and decision-making, the UCP has dumped more time and resources into a plan that shouldn’t move ahead.