The RCMP's brand new Ottawa headquarters can't accommodate the number of officers originally anticipated.
The national police force announced in 2006 that it was relocating all of its Ottawa-based employees into a building that had been built at the height of the technology bubble in Ottawa for JDS Uniphase, and that was sitting empty at the time.
The government signed a deal to rent the 80,000-square-metre campus for 25 years at a total cost of $600-million. The RCMP estimated that it was getting enough work spaces for 3,838 employees, allowing the force to assemble its scattered staff into a single place.
However, the RCMP has had to revise its estimate downward to 3,300 work spaces, meaning that the new headquarters will house 14-per-cent fewer employees than initially planned. And when the relocation process is finished, the building will already be full, with no immediate room for growth.
"In all, we anticipate 3,300 employees on-site … by the end of 2011," said Superintendant Tim Cogan said in an e-mail.
Liberal MP Mark Holland said the situation is embarrassing and proves that the government has failed to adequately plan the relocation process.
"You don't start on the first day with the building at capacity," Mr. Holland said, fearing that the government will have to go back on the marketplace for more office space.
"We will need more RCMP officers and there needs to be a way to accommodate growth," Mr. Holland said.
There has been some speculation in RCMP circles that the massive atrium that was built for JDS Uniphase has eaten up more space than anticipated, but the RCMP said it was simply a question of workplace safety.
"This revision [in the number of workspaces]is mainly attributed to the need to create more circulation space [that is, corridors]in order to meet building code requirements," Supt. Cogan said.
The Harper government faced an outcry in 2006 when it entered into a sole-sourced agreement to obtain the building. The government responded to the outside criticism by calling on all real estate firms in Ottawa to come forward if they could match the deal. None did, and the government said that the new headquarters were perfectly suited to the RCMP's needs.
"This new location will provide the RCMP with the kind of facilities they require to enforce our laws and protect Canadians," said Stockwell Day, who was minister of public safety at the time.
The RCMP said the staff relocation into the new headquarters has started, and will be completed by the end of next year.
"There is sufficient space for all groups/policy centres currently identified for relocation," Supt. Cogan said.