Two key B.C. cities – exasperated with the 20-year RCMP policing contract the province has negotiated with Ottawa – are looking at creating their own forces or a new regional one.
As the B.C. government on Tuesday extended to the end of June the deadline for signing on to the agreement, the mayors of Burnaby and Richmond made it clear they were considering options other than having the RCMP police their communities under the new deal.
In March, the federal and provincial governments signed a contract to keep the Mounties in B.C. until 2032.
Many mayors do not like the idea of being committed for 20 years, the lack of municipal input into a planned five-year review of the deal, and have questions about the costs it would impose on them. Tuesday’s extension of the deadline for ratifying the deal is the second Justice Minister Shirley Bond has made to allow the municipalities time to consider what to do.
While Richmond’s mayor said the idea of an alternative is nebulous at this point, Burnaby’s leader said his city is moving quickly on the possibility.
City council in Burnaby passed a motion this week to have staff prepare the paperwork to find a consultant to “examine the costs and implications of alternative policing models to the current RCMP model.”
Mayor Derek Corrigan, who has been a blunt critic of the RCMP deal, said Burnaby could set up its own force, form a joint force with other like-minded municipalities or even keep the RCMP. “There’s a range of possibilities. I don’t think anybody is closing any doors,” he said. “We’ll let the consultant look at the full range.
“It isn’t a matter of bluff or bluster,” Mr. Corrigan said. “It’s a question of honestly looking at whether there are better alternatives. We suspect that all alternatives will be more expensive than the RCMP, but sometimes you have to pay the extra money in order to be able to get more certainty, and we’re going to examine that and whether the cost is worth it for us to have a greater degree of local control.”
He said he expected the consultants would take a year, and that Burnaby would sign on to the deal, but could opt out later.
“It took them years to negotiate the contract from their perspective, and we have been given a couple of months to sign on. There’s a lot of uncertainties that remain for us,” he said.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he still has questions about the deal, and is interested in exploring other models with other cities.
“I doubt that we would be looking at our own police force, but some sort of a more regional option could be a possibility,” he said.
He added that Richmond has not yet sought a consultant. “We’re just starting this process. It’s a matter of speaking to the other cities to find out whether other cities might be interested in looking at a similar type of question, and then pooling the resources upon it,” he said. “We’re just getting going.”
He said Richmond has yet to receive serious answers to key concerns about the deal, and won’t sign without them. He said his staff will request meetings with Ms. Bond while talking to other cities.
Ms. Bond said she agreed to the latest extension to be “as reasonable as possible,” but it would be a hard deadline.
She said municipalities such as Burnaby could sign the new deal, and immediately trigger a clause that would allow them to opt out in two years, creating a window finding for an alternative, but she was not holding out any other options.
“This can’t be an unending process,” she said, noting that 46 of 62 prospective municipalities have signed the agreement.