Two more Canadian provinces have confirmed they too are facing the threat that the federal government may withdraw RCMP officers in 2014 if a deal on a new contract is not reached by the end of next month.
Last week, B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond announced the federal government had delivered the same threat if British Columbia doesn't sign a suggested 20-year policing contract by the end of November.
Spokeswomen from Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island said Wednesday they are facing the deadline, too.
“I can indeed confirm that ... we did receive the ultimatum as well,” said Vanessa Colman-Sadd, director of communications for Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Justice.
She said 440 RCMP members work in Newfoundland.
Ms. Colman-Sadd said it was premature to discuss any plans her province may have, including an expanded role for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary if negotiations with Ottawa fail.
“Our priority is to get the feds back at the table,” she said. “That's where the priority is at. We want to continue the discussion with the feds.”
Joanne MacKinnon, planing and communication co-ordinator with Prince Edward Island's Department of Justice and Public Safety, said PEI is facing the same deadline.
She said she did not want to speculate on any plans PEI may have if talks founder over the 107 RCMP members employed in her province.
“At this point in time, we're still optimistic that Public Safety Canada will return to the negotiating table and that we'll be able to work out a mutually agreeable contract,” she said.
Naline Rampersad, spokeswoman for the government of Manitoba, declined comment on the matter, saying only that negotiations have been ongoing and continue.
Any plans her government may have if negotiations founder are hypothetical, she said.
Ms. Bond said Wednesday that all Canadian provinces and territories were negotiating as a block until Alberta and Saskatchewan broke ranks and signed their own deals with Ottawa.
The remaining provinces and territories are all under the same deadline, she added, and met last week to consolidate their position.
“I'm not surprised that the other provinces are making those comments,” said Ms. Bond. “They're part of the group that received the same information that we did.”
According to the RCMP's website, about 26,000 regular and civilian employees work for the force across Canada.
Of those, more than 9,500 regular and civilian employees work in B.C.’s E Division, the largest of the RCMP's 15 divisions in Canada.
The Surrey, B.C. detachment is the largest in Canada, employing 640 regular and civilian members and a support staff of 238 municipal employees.
Julie Carmichael, press secretary for the federal Minister of Public Safety, said in a statement to The Canadian Press that the government is willing to sign new agreements with the provinces, but the provinces must decide if they want to “come on board.”
“The same fundamental terms and conditions will apply to all provinces,” she said.
Ms. Bond said while she remains optimistic about conciliatory comments made by federal Heritage Minister James Moore last week, B.C. continues to do the work on an alternative to the RCMP.
Rob Gordon, director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University who has long advocated for a separate B.C. provincial force, agreed some of the negotiations come down to brinkmanship.
“I think the feds started out on that path: ‘Well, take it or leave it,' not realizing that in the case of B.C. there's actually some consideration of leaving it. And it may be that the person that was negotiating with B.C. underestimated the push back.”
He said the federal negotiator may not be “tuned in” to B.C.’s concerns, adding it may make sense for Ottawa to give the provinces an ultimatum.
Mr. Gordon said he's not aware of any discussions about creating a provincial police force in Manitoba, PEI or Nova Scotia.
“I guess what they're [Ottawa]trying to do is to get the others to get in line and sign up and not worry about B.C. If we choose to go a different route, well that's what we chose to do,” he said.
If talks continue to falter and B.C. decides to create its own police force, the province should negotiate an extension to the RCMP contract until 2015, said Gordon.
It should then create some sort of “blue-ribbon panel” led by an individual who is independent and holds impeccable credentials, he added.
The panel would study the structure and organization of policing in B.C, alternative policing models from other jurisdictions and costs.
Then, communities and stakeholders should be able to make recommendations to the provincial cabinet on policing over the next 50 years, said Gordon.
He said B.C. could probably set up its own force in a couple years.
As for the remaining provinces, he said: “If they weren't in a position where they wanted to do that, then they wouldn't have to. They'd just sign up with the Mounties for another 20 years. God help 'em.”
The Canadian Press