Thursday , 21 October 2021

New funding formula for RCMP could have big effects on local communities wallets

The province is suggesting changes to how RCMP members are funded, which could have local impacts.

The provincial government is suggesting a new funding model that would see small municipalities start to pay to support the cost during engagement sessions online earlier this month.

Currently, municipalities under 5000 people do not pay anything for the basic RCMP contract, while municipalities fewer than 15,000 people pay 70 per cent of the RCMP cost, and cities above a population of 15,000 pay 90 per cent of the cost.

While this topic will be discussed at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association conference later in the month, the funding change could impact the M.D. of Bonnyville, said Reeve Greg Sawchuk, who sat on in the webinar when the new formula was discussed.

He said he understands that the M.D. should pay into the service, but still had concerns, especially since there is no indication there will be improved service by paying.

“The M.D. isn’t paying anything other than what we’ve got in the enhanced positions. We have no problem with paying a portion. What they have come back with though shows this base policing cost being anywhere from 15-70 per cent being placed on the rurals,” said Reeve Greg Sawchuk on The Morning After.

“In the case in the M.D., with the numbers I ran, that puts us on the low side about $800,000 per year, on the high side beyond $3 million.”

Sawchuk said the M.D. will write a letter to the Government of Alberta stating they are willing to pay their share, but also wants the ICF agreements with surrounding municipalities fleshed out and the same options as urban communities.

In order to that, the Police Act would have to be opened up and changed, if the M.D. or any other rural community wanted to fund their own police force.

“As a rural, to have this new cost come with no increase in service, we would have to go back to the province and say give us some options,” said Sawchuk.

“The question was asked during the webinar with us paying this additional cost, coming from our taxpayers, are we be going to be getting an increased level of service? There was a strange silence there. There would be no change in the service levels. Really, we would just be paying for what we’re getting now. That’s going to be a tough one moving forward.”

Cold Lake City Council also looking for changes

While the formula is meant to be more equitable and would affect rural communities the most, Cold Lake city council would like to see the urban communities pay less than the 70 per cent they do currently.

In 2018, the Mayor of Grande Prairie Bill Given called on the province to change the funding formula.

Cold Lake CAO Kevin Nagoya called the heavy funding by mid-sized municipalities a “long-standing issue” at Tuesday’s council meeting.

However, there are more question marks than answers at this point as there appears to be no change in Cold Lake’s portion, said Mayor Craig Copeland.

“Is that money staying in the regional pool of the costing of the RCMP in Cold Lake and Bonnyville detachments? Or is it going towards the government’s portion of paying for policing for the rurals, is the government portion going down and the city’s portion will still remain based on the formula based between 5,000 and 15,000?” said Copeland during Tuesday’s council meeting.

“This document only speaks to the communities that aren’t paying for policing..so a person in a Summer Village is going to pay a couple of thousand dollars, maybe 20 cents compared to the City of Cold Lake residents, who pay $135 per capita. In terms of an equitable formula where all Albertans are paying equally to the RCMP – this doesn’t even come close.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.