Tuesday , 21 March 2023

Bonnyville council rejects idea of provincial police force

As the Alberta government explores the idea of a provincial police force, Bonnyville town council will write a letter to the Solicitor General saying they are not in favour of this move.

The discussion came up at Tuesday’s regular council meeting when councillor Ray Prevost brought up the current study the provincial committee has commissioned to see whether or not Alberta should get its own provincial police force.

The idea was one of several recommendations that came out of the Fair Deal Panel’s final report in May 2020. The study, undertaken by PriceWaterhouseCoopers with a $2 million budget, will be completed by April 30.

“I just think that this council and other councils across Alberta should go on record indicating whether they are for or opposed and I’m one of those that would oppose the transfer from RCMP to provincial policing,” said Prevost at the council meeting.

Some Bonnyville council members have taken part in recent seminars this February put on by the AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities of Alberta) that addressed this question of provincial policing, and reports indicate that many on the call were not in favour.

Currently, the federal government provides a 30 per cent grant to cover RCMP costs for municipalities, and there is uncertainty about what the costs for the town would be under a provincial police model and whether it would be any better than what the RCMP already provide.

Mayor Gene Sobolewski on The Morning After on Wednesday cited figures from a recent survey that 29 per cent of respondents were in favour of provincial police, however, taking away residents from large urban centres of Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge that already have their own police forces, that drops to six per cent.

He said the transition would be “like taking a sledgehammer to a Lego house.”

“When we start taking a look at the removal of the police service, who’s going to make up the difference with that 30 per cent that’s covered by the federal government?… What is the administration going to look like? What is the senior admin at the provincial level, the bureaucracy, what is that going to look like? How do we pay for all of that? And how much is offloaded onto us as municipalities?” said Sobolewski.

“We take a look at that, we as a municipality, we go–are we really in favour of this? And yesterday was a resounding no, and to send a letter to the provincial government and the Solicitor General to that effect.”

Thirty-six per cent in the AUMA-cited survey said they supported maintaining RCMP service with “significant improvements.”

Council voted in favour to write the letter and will also detail the community involvement the local RCMP have in the community.

Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police forces and several large municipalities in Canada run their own service as well.

Alberta had a provincial police force from 1917 to 1932.

“It’s basically not broken. There’s some small tweaks and things like that, surely, there may be some opportunities to make some tweaks or policy changes. But overall, the Town of Bonnyville is receiving excellent service from the police of the RCMP,” said Sobolewski.

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.