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November 7, 2011 - Richmond, BC - Richmond RCMP parade in front of the newly unveiled $36 million Richmond Community Safety Building, which houses the headquarters of the Richmond RCMP. (Brett Beadle For The Globe and Mail/Brett Beadle For The Globe and Mail)
November 7, 2011 - Richmond, BC - Richmond RCMP parade in front of the newly unveiled $36 million Richmond Community Safety Building, which houses the headquarters of the Richmond RCMP. (Brett Beadle For The Globe and Mail/Brett Beadle For The Globe and Mail)

Letter from B.C.

New RCMP policing deal for B.C. comes with new rules Add to ...

The RCMP will continue to police most of British Columbia, but some new rules are coming with a 20-year agreement in principle that takes effect next year.

There’s going to be a new contract-management committee to oversee how the Mounties deliver police services and manage costs. And the agreement includes a two-year opt-out clause and review at five years. B.C. led talks with Ottawa for eight other provinces and territories that will adapt the deal for their policing needs.

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Interesting progress – but it all falls short of the scenario the B.C. government encouraged since disclosing in September that talks with Ottawa to renew the contracting agreement were not going well.

For months, the B.C. government did little to dial back talk that it was thinking of reviving the British Columbia Provincial Police – after a 60-year absence – to replace the Mounties. Call it the BCPP v.2.0.

At the end of October, B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond said contingency planning was proceeding at full speed because it would be irresponsible not to do so. “It’s kind of like running for office. You hope you win and if you don’t the other speech comes out,” she told The Globe and Mail.

Premier Christy Clark suggested it might be cheaper to bring back the provincial police than to keep the Mounties. She declined to release numbers to support the claim, which was symptomatic of a secrecy that has characterized the negotiations. Spokesmen in provinces and territories have been wary about detailed comment to the media.

For his part, Vic Toews, the federal public safety minister, said B.C. had until the end of November to accept a federal deal or face a withdrawal of the Mounties in 2014.

All that posturing and now an agreement in principle. “When you look at how everything unfolded, it would seem to have been rather empty rhetoric,” political scientist Norman Ruff said of the turnabout from threats to co-cordiality between Ottawa and Victoria.

The professor emeritus at the University of Victoria said that high-volume bluster has been a knock against the Clark government on other files.

The provincial NDP were supportive of the Clark government, with party Leader Adrian Dix agreeing at one point to sign a joint letter with Ms. Clark to bolster B.C.’s bid for a fair deal. Still, in the aftermath, the policing critic wondered at all the rhetoric.

“I think both the federal government and the province were overstating their cases because they didn’t want to be the ones who seemed to be the guilty party in the failure of the negotiations,” Kathy Corrigan said.

Details on what has been agreed to have been somewhat vague. Ms. Bond has spoken of eventually releasing the text of the agreement to the public.

“This is not the way in which public-policy issues are ordinarily discussed in Canada,” said Rob Gordon, head of the criminology department at Simon Fraser University, and a supporter of regional police forces in B.C. that would replace the RCMP model. “What the government appears to be saying at this point is, ‘All will be revealed in the spring. Trust me, children.’”

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