With roughly one-third of B.C. municipalities signing on to the new 20-year RCMP contract, Solicitor- General Shirley Bond has stretched the deadline for municipal approval of the deal to the end of May.
Municipalities remain concerned about multimillion-dollar costs associated with the controversial contract and continue to look at alternatives, including establishing their own municipal police forces or merging forces with neighbouring municipalities.
The federal and provincial governments signed a contract in March that would keep the Mounties in B.C. until 2032. Municipalities were to ratify the contract by the end of April.
Ms. Bond was unavailable Tuesday for an interview. But Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who represented municipalities at federal-provincial negotiations on the contract, said 24 of 62 municipalities who use the RCMP services in B.C. have approved the contract.
The deadline was extended by a month to allow municipalities to have outstanding questions answered, he said. Some municipalities have not had enough time to schedule their discussion on the contract while others have more questions. “What we have to do is just be patient for them to go through the process they need to,” Mr. Fassbender said.
He said he anticipated most if not all municipalities would sign on over the next few weeks.
Mayor Derek Corrigan of Burnaby has been among the most outspoken critics of the contract. “We’re still looking for answers,” he said Tuesday. “We’re concerned about the real cost of the contract.”
Lower Mainland mayors who met Friday with representatives of the federal and provincial governments and the RCMP were waiting for their response to outstanding questions about the contract, he added.
One of the biggest concerns is who pays for inter-jurisdictional policing groups such as the integrated homicide investigation team and emergency response teams, he said. The municipalities would like the federal government to pick up 30 per cent of the costs. Currently it covers only 10 per cent.
Mr. Corrigan said the federal government covers 30 per cent of policing for municipalities with under 5,000 people. “We say we think [the federal government]should give [it]to all,” he said, adding that the change would mean municipalities would spend millions of dollars less on policing.
Municipalities are also looking for a federal commitment to cover the cost of a possible settlement in a continuing wage dispute within the RCMP and the $1.3-billion price tag on construction and operations of a new headquarters in Surrey.
The process of decision-making within the RCMP remains an issue. Recently, the RCMP decided that shotguns had to be replaced with long guns following an inquest in rural Alberta, Mr. Corrigan said. “No one asked us if long rifles were necessary in an urban setting. It just came out as an edict from Ottawa,” he said.
“Over and over again, those kinds of edicts come down … a new set of rules is imposed by Ottawa that have to complied with, without any discussion or notice. We get tired of it,” he said. Municipalities are feeling “pretty hard done by,” he added. “They just do not feel it is in the best interest of their taxpayers [to sign the contract]”
Burnaby is “considering all options,” including creating its own municipal police force or merging with other municipalities, he said.
Meanwhile, Coquitlam decided Monday night to defer a decision on the contract until at least next week. Council members were looking for answers related to cost and management control, Mayor Richard Stewart said, adding that he expected Coquitlam to eventually sign on.
“RCMP is our police force and will continue to be,” he said.