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RCMP officers at the Pioneer Square Cenotaph in Vancouver, November 11, 2011. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
RCMP officers at the Pioneer Square Cenotaph in Vancouver, November 11, 2011. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Contract retains RCMP as Canada's main police force Add to ...

A group of provinces and territories have gained new oversight powers over the RCMP as part of an agreement in principle to have the Mounties provide contract policing for the next 20 years, officials say.

The agreement, which takes effect on April 1, includes creation of contract management committees allowing new kinds of input into RCMP operations in communities across the six provinces and three territories, which negotiated as a bloc led by British Columbia.

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“Certainly that was one of our key concerns, having a role in ensuring we could have discussions before costs were simply assigned to the municipalities across the province,” B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond told reporters on Wednesday.

“Twenty years is a long time, and one of the things we needed to be assured about was our ability to look at cost containment moving forward,” she said.

Peter Fassbender, a B.C. municipal representative in the talks, which concluded last week in Ottawa, said the committees will ensure better communication among partners and identification of cost issues.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for ongoing and meaningful input of all of the partners in this new contract,” Mr. Fassbender said. “We’ve never really had that before. It is brand new. I think it is a big step forward.”

He said it will be up to each of the jurisdictions to structure the committees.

The bloc negotiated as a group in a bid to deal with individual policing realities. The other players are the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Manitoba.

The new contract includes a two-year opt-out clause and an option for review after five years.

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews had threatened to pull the Mounties out of B.C. as of 2014 if the province did not accept Ottawa’s terms by the end of November.

In response, B.C. began planning to create a provincial police force for the first time in 60 years, with Premier Christy Clark suggesting that might be cheaper than keeping the Mounties. It was a rare point of enmity between B.C. and Ottawa, which had harmonious relations in former premier Gordon Campbell’s 10 years as premier.

Mr. Toews’s threat, disclosed by Ms. Bond in September, sparked a secretive round of bargaining that ended with the agreement announced Wednesday.

B.C. officials, when speaking for the provinces and territories, have tended to use generalities about controlling costs and better oversight. On Wednesday, Ms. Bond said she would eventually release the detailed agreement.

The B.C. Solicitor-General said talks have reached the point where she was able to communicate to Mr. Toews that B.C. would accept the agreement subject to working out some minor issues.

“We have some final i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but, in essence, the resolution to a very complex negotiation.”

In Ottawa, a spokesman for Mr. Toews said the provinces didn’t have to put ink to paper on Wednesday as long as they offered an official statement agreeing to the deal. He said the agreement is similar to the one recently signed by Alberta and Saskatchewan ahead of the recent talks, and will replace agreements for the two provinces.

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