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Riot-control officers face off with protesters as they march against police brutality and racism in Montreal on June 7. Weeks earlier, the death in police custody of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, ignited global outrage and renewed demands to reduce or eliminate police funding.

MARTIN OUELLET-DIOTTE/AFP/Getty Images

As calls grow for reviews of police budgets across Canada, a Globe and Mail analysis has found that spending on police in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta is increasing at a faster rate than spending for other municipal services, a pattern experts say highlights the need for greater financial accountability.

While roughly one-10th of the municipal operating budgets in Toronto and Calgary go toward their police services, other cities’ forces have accounted for a quarter or more, with the vast majority of those funds being spent on officers’ salaries. In Longueuil, Que., and Surrey, B.C., police budgets accounted for close to a third of city spending in 2019.

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer in May and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted in its wake, protesters in Canada and the United States have repeatedly called for cuts to police budgets, with resources redirected to community and mental-health services.

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For defund-the-police advocates, the struggle is harder in Canada – even when municipalities are on their side

In Canada, too, a number of fatal police interactions this summer have put renewed focus on the strained relations between police forces and racialized communities. In May, Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death from a 24th-floor balcony in Toronto after police had been called to her apartment. In June, officers in New Brunswick shot and killed two Indigenous people, Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi, in separate incidents eight days apart. Investigations are continuing in all three cases.

In June, Toronto City Council debated and ultimately voted down a motion to slash 10 per cent of the Toronto Police Service’s budget. The city fields the largest and most expensive municipal police service in the country, at a cost of $1.2-billion in 2019.

To determine how much cities spend on police, The Globe surveyed budgets for the municipalities fielding Canada’s 25 largest police forces. The analysis showed these cities and regional authorities spent between 8 per cent and 30 per cent of their operating budgets on policing in 2019.

Though large police services such as Toronto’s and Quebec City’s consumed less than 10 per cent of their municipal budgets, a look at police spending per person – that is, adjusting for the population each force serves – shows some spend far more than others. The Toronto Police Service, for instance, rockets up to fourth place, spending $397 per capita, behind Windsor, Ont. ($505), Edmonton ($465) and Vancouver ($463). Quebec City’s force, meanwhile, spent $230 per capita, the lowest amount per capita of the 25 largest police services analyzed.

The Globe also took a closer look at police spending by looking at budget growth and how much police forces spend on their own salaries. That analysis relied on financial data published by the municipal affairs ministries for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario – provinces studied because of their size and because their finances could be easily analyzed. The analysis focused only on operating expenditures for the police forces themselves (excluding police boards) and looked at trends between 2009 and 2018, the most recent year for which data were available. When zooming in on specific municipalities, the analysis excluded communities spending less than $1-million on police each year.

Spending on police in the three provinces has been growing at a faster rate than other municipal services such as transit, city planning and social services.

Between 2009 and 2018, police spending in these three provinces grew 42 per cent over all, compared with the 37-per-cent growth for all other municipal services combined. The growth gap was largest in Alberta, where police budgets grew 66 per cent, compared with the 56-per-cent increase for other municipal spending. In British Columbia, where many municipalities contract out their policing to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 10 municipalities spent 30 per cent or more of their budgets on “protective services,” a category that includes policing, firefighting, bylaw enforcement and emergency preparedness services. (B.C.‘s municipal finance data do not break out police spending.)

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In Alberta, Camrose and Edmonton both spent 15 per cent of their 2018 budgets on police, the largest percentages in the province.

Micki Ruth, president of the Canadian Association of Police Governance and chair of the Edmonton Police Commission, doesn’t think it’s surprising police forces receive such large portions of municipal budgets.

“Yes, they take the bulk of the money, because they’re the only players in the field [responding to these calls],” she said.

“Until we get other people – health, social services, education, a bunch of the standalone non-profits and charities who are all sort of all playing in their own ballpark – until there are those people co-ordinated and at the table, then when you call somebody at 3 o’clock in the morning, the only number you have are the police.”

But while police budgets have expanded, spending on items that might reduce the police’s workloads hasn’t kept up.

Between 2009 and 2018, Ontario police budgets grew by 34 per cent. During that same period, funding for social and family services – a category activists argue should receive funds diverted from the police – grew by 24 per cent. Spending on social housing, meanwhile, declined by 8 per cent.

In Canada, most of the money in police budgets ends up in officers’ paycheques. Salaries, wages, benefits and pensions accounted for 77 per cent of overall Ontario police expenditures in 2018, a rate that has stayed more or less unchanged since 2009, according to The Globe’s analysis. Even then, some cities spend far more than others. In Hamilton and Thunder Bay, 90 per cent of police funds went to salaries in 2018.

In 2018, the town of Midland, Ont. – population 17,000 – spent 30 per cent of its budget on policing, the largest percentage anywhere in the province. That year, the town paid $587 per capita to field its police service, more than double the Ontario average.

The police budget had ballooned largely because of salary costs for the town’s uniformed officers and management, according to Mayor Stewart Strathearn. “We were looking at 25, 26 per cent of our budget being spent on policing,” he said of the town’s budgets in the years leading up to 2018.

When negotiating a new collective agreement, Mr. Strathearn said the police union would request salary increases based on what other services in the province had recently obtained – a benchmark often set by large forces such as the Ontario Provincial Police or the Toronto Police Service. “The argument is, ‘Well, we’re all police officers and we all deserve the same pay, because we all have the same qualifications, we all do the same job,’ ” he said.

Instead, Midland disbanded its police service in 2018 and signed a contract with the OPP.

While the transition itself was costly, Mr. Strathearn hopes it will eventually save the town $1.2-million yearly, a big cost reduction given it spent close to $10-million on policing in 2018.

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Municipalities dedicating

the largest percentage of

their spending to police in 2018

Municipalities spending at least $1-million

a year on policing. In B.C., amounts are for

overall “protective services,” not just police.

British Columbia

Victoria

37.3%

Langley

37.3%

Esquimalt

37.2%

Delta

31.7%

Central Saanich

31.4%

Nanaimo

30.9%

Abbotsford

30.5%

Surrey

30.0%

Saanich

29.9%

Prince George

29.7%

Alberta

Camrose

15.4%

Edmonton

14.7%

Calgary

13.5%

Lacombe

13.4%

Taber

13.2%

Lloydminster

12.9%

Edson

12.1%

Wetaskiwin

12.1%

Grande Prairie

12.1%

Rocky Mountain

House

11.0%

Ontario

Midland

30.0%

Espanola

28.6%

Gananoque

24.0%

Woodstock

23.7%

Strathroy-Caradoc

23.2%

Stormont, Dundas

and Glengarry

20.9%

Aylmer

20.7%

West Grey

20.1%

Selwyn

20.1%

Sarnia

19.9%

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Municipalities dedicating the largest

percentage of their spending to police in 2018

Municipalities spending at least $1-million a year

on policing. In B.C., amounts are for overall

“protective services,” not just police.

British Columbia

Victoria

37.3%

Langley

37.3%

Esquimalt

37.2%

Delta

31.7%

Central Saanich

31.4%

Nanaimo

30.9%

Abbotsford

30.5%

Surrey

30.0%

Saanich

29.9%

Prince George

29.7%

Alberta

Camrose

15.4%

Edmonton

14.7%

Calgary

13.5%

Lacombe

13.4%

Taber

13.2%

Lloydminster

12.9%

Edson

12.1%

Wetaskiwin

12.1%

Grande Prairie

12.1%

Rocky Mountain

House

11.0%

Ontario

Midland

30.0%

Espanola

28.6%

Gananoque

24.0%

Woodstock

23.7%

Strathroy-Caradoc

23.2%

Stormont, Dundas

and Glengarry

20.9%

Aylmer

20.7%

West Grey

20.1%

Selwyn

20.1%

Sarnia

19.9%

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Municipalities dedicating the largest

percentage of their spending to police in 2018

Municipalities spending at least $1-million a year on policing.

In B.C., amounts are for overall “protective services,” not just police.

British Columbia

Alberta

Ontario

Victoria

37.3%

Camrose

15.4%

Midland

30.0%

Langley

37.3%

Edmonton

14.7%

Espanola

28.6%

Esquimalt

37.2%

Calgary

13.5%

Gananoque

24.0%

Delta

31.7%

Lacombe

13.4%

Woodstock

23.7%

Central

Saanich

31.4%

Taber

13.2%

Strathroy-Caradoc

23.2%

Stormont, Dundas

and Glengarry

Nanaimo

30.9%

Lloydminster

12.9%

20.9%

Aylmer

Abbotsford

30.5%

Edson

12.1%

20.7%

West Grey

Surrey

30.0%

Wetaskiwin

12.1%

20.1%

Selwyn

Saanich

29.9%

Grande Prairie

12.1%

20.1%

Prince

George

Rocky Mountain

House

29.7%

11.0%

Sarnia

19.9%

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Municipalities dedicating the largest

percentage of their spending to police in 2018

Municipalities spending at least $1-million a year on policing.

In B.C., amounts are for overall “protective services,” not just police.

British Columbia

Alberta

Ontario

Victoria

37.3%

Camrose

15.4%

Midland

30.0%

Langley

37.3%

Edmonton

14.7%

Espanola

28.6%

Esquimalt

37.2%

Calgary

13.5%

Gananoque

24.0%

Delta

31.7%

Lacombe

13.4%

Woodstock

23.7%

Central Saanich

31.4%

Taber

13.2%

Strathroy-Caradoc

23.2%

Stormont, Dundas

and Glengarry

Nanaimo

30.9%

Lloydminster

12.9%

20.9%

Aylmer

Abbotsford

30.5%

Edson

12.1%

20.7%

West Grey

Surrey

30.0%

Wetaskiwin

12.1%

20.1%

Selwyn

Saanich

29.9%

Grande Prairie

12.1%

20.1%

Rocky Mountain

House

Prince George

29.7%

11.0%

Sarnia

19.9%

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Municipalities dedicating the largest

percentage of their spending to police in 2018

Municipalities spending at least $1-million a year on policing.

In B.C., amounts are for overall “protective services,” not just police.

British Columbia

Alberta

Ontario

Victoria

37.3%

Camrose

15.4%

Midland

30.0%

Langley

37.3%

Edmonton

14.7%

Espanola

28.6%

Esquimalt

37.2%

Calgary

13.5%

Gananoque

24.0%

Delta

31.7%

Lacombe

13.4%

Woodstock

23.7%

Central Saanich

31.4%

Taber

13.2%

Strathroy-Caradoc

23.2%

Stormont, Dundas

and Glengarry

Nanaimo

30.9%

Lloydminster

12.9%

20.9%

Aylmer

Abbotsford

30.5%

Edson

12.1%

20.7%

West Grey

Surrey

30.0%

Wetaskiwin

12.1%

20.1%

Selwyn

Saanich

29.9%

Grande Prairie

12.1%

20.1%

Rocky Mountain

House

Prince George

29.7%

11.0%

Sarnia

19.9%

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS

Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, which represents 60,000 officers across the country, said salaries inevitably make up a large chunk of any police budget, given the nature of the work.

“Policing is a people business, right? We deliver a service that relies on people interacting with people,” he said.

Mr. Stamatakis said that the cost of policing has been examined “in a very exhaustive way,” and that he was frustrated at the “arbitrary” and “thoughtless” budget cuts being discussed for Canadian police services.

Winnipeg's police accounted for 27 per cent of the city's budget in 2019.

John Woods/The Canadian Press

But one expert believes that police budgets need more scrutiny – not less.

Kevin Walby is a criminology professor at the University of Winnipeg who has studied police spending. His research found that between 2010 and 2015, the Winnipeg Police Service’s budget grew by 36 per cent. During that time, the police saw several salary increases of 4 per cent or more, and last year, the police consumed 27 per cent of the city’s operating budget.

According to the city’s 2019 salary disclosure list, Winnipeg’s best-paid public servant was the chief of police. Eight other police officers sat near the top of the list and received a larger salary than the mayor, who came in 18th place.

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“Police have these salary increases that are astronomical compared to what other workers are getting,” Prof. Walby said. “I can’t think of an institution that deserves more auditing.”

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