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MD of Bonnyville council asks questions about RCMP services

MD of Bonnyville council raised a couple of concerns when it comes to RCMP services
20.05.20.K Division Meeting
The MD of Bonnyville will be bringing a couple of concerns forward towards the end of October regarding RCMP services. File photo.

BONNYVILLE – The MD of Bonnyville is submitting some concerns regarding RCMP service.

Council passed a motion during its Oct. 13 meeting to request more information regarding the new police funding model and clarity when it comes to the province looking into replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force.

The decision came after the Bonnyville and Cold Lake detachments sent letters asking if the MD had any concerns or questions that they would like to bring forward to discuss with the Commanding Officer of the RCMP ‘K’ Division during the fall meetings for the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA).

In a letter to the MD, Bonnyville Sgt. Kim Hillier noted the inquiries would need to pertain to ‘K’ Division ‘as a whole.’

“Unfortunately, this year's meetings will not be conducted with communities who have no specific concerns,” she continued.

Reeve Greg Sawchuk said, “I think the big thing for this is they’re looking for concerns that were wide spread rather than individual issues with the local commands, in which case they still want us to reach out to them and talk to them directly.”

With this in mind, Coun. Dana Swigart suggested council see if more information is available about the province’s new police funding formula.

“I do have a concern because the costing model for the RCMP, of course, they’re downloading it onto municipalities,” he noted. “They still haven’t told us if that’s going to benefit us. Apparently, the RCMP said it wouldn’t make any difference because we’re not going to get extra staffing.”

Rural municipalities and small Alberta communities were informed in 2019 they would have to pay for policing services, which is a new cost to them. The municipality has requested clarity regarding the police funding formula a number of times since it was announced.

The MD will pay 10 per cent of policing costs in 2021 for a total of $407,789. By 2024, they will be covering 30 per cent of the bill to the tune of roughly $1.2-million.

Another concern raised during the discussion was more information about the province looking into creating a provincial police force.

“One of the things that’s been brought up recently is provincial police forces instead of the RCMP,” Swigart noted. “Do they have more information that wants to provide or is that it? It would be nice to know if they’re pursuing anything or if it’s just talk.”

The Fair Deal Panel recommended to the government of Alberta to replace RCMP with a provincial police service after hearing frustrations from Albertans regarding the RCMP. As a result, the province announced on Oct. 7 that an independent assessment of a possible transition to a provincial police service was moving ahead.

“Through the Fair Deal Panel, Albertans who are policed by the RCMP told their government that they want a provincial police service,” noted Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu in a press release. “Alberta’s government has an obligation to listen to those concerns and explore how a police force designed in Alberta – not Ottawa – would improve the safety and security of Albertans and their property. Alberta’s government must make an informed choice, and this report will bring us one step closer to the panel’s recommendation. After a federal throne speech that ignored nearly all the legitimate concerns of Albertans, this an important part of getting a fair deal for Alberta, while limiting Ottawa’s reach into the province.”

One topic council touched on during the meeting was the catch and release approach when dealing with crime. Sawchuk noted the topic was something that was better suited to discuss with the Minister of Justice because "that’s their realm."

“The worry is maybe we’re losing some access to these ministers by not having these conferences.”

The local detachments will send off the municipality’s concerns to be discussed during the RMA toward the end of October.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle