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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, speak in Edmonton on Wednesday June 26, 2019.

The Canadian Press

Alberta’s small municipalities and rural districts are getting more police officers, but they will be paying out of pocket to get them.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government says starting next year, the areas will pay a portion of the cost on a rising scale to bring in $200 million by 2024.

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says that money, along with a rising federal contribution, will mean an extra $286 million for those rural areas over five years.

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It is to be used to hire 300 officers, plus others in specialized crime units such as drug trafficking.

Schweitzer says the move will help fight rural crime while ensuring municipal leaders have a say on their priorities on a new police advisory board.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley calls it “bait and switch” from a United Conservative government that promised more police resources for rural areas, but is forcing them to pay for the added service, probably through higher property taxes.

The municipalities, with some exceptions, will begin paying for 10 per cent of their total policing costs starting next year, rising to 30 per cent by 2023.

Small municipalities under 5,000 residents and other rural districts have previously had their policing costs covered entirely by the province at a cost of almost $233 million a year.

The 291 districts represent about 20 per cent of the Alberta population.

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