BONNYVILLE – Town of Bonnyville council is speaking out against the idea of Alberta getting its own provincial police force.
Alberta’s Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu will be receiving a letter from the municipality stating council is against a provincial police service being established after council passed a motion at a Feb. 23 meeting.
The topic was brought up by Coun. Ray Prevost after he and a few other members of council participated in the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) President’s Summit on Policing earlier in the month, which discussed the feasibility of creating a provincial police force.
The provincial government’s Fair Deal Panel made the recommendation to create a provincial police force to replace the RCMP in Alberta because it says the force is overly bureaucratic, members have limited connections to Alberta, and there's an unwillingness or inability to confront activists, among others points.
An assessment was launched in October 2020 to assess a possible transition from RCMP to a provincial police service. The results are expected to be released by the end of April.
Prevost urged council to take a stance on the matter ahead of the assessment results being made public.
"What I’ve seen in the cities is that they’re always two to one car and when you drive around town, you see the RCMP (has) one in the car. Are we doubling up on the number of members that would be required? Is the cost going to be the same? We’re going to lose the 30 per cent (federal subsidy) and am I guaranteed the tickets written in town will stay in the town and not go back to the province to pay for the provincial policing?” Prevost wondered.
He continued, “With all of that, I just think that this council and other councils across Alberta should go on record indicating whether there for or opposed and I'm one of those that would oppose the transfer of RCMP to provincial policing.”
Mayor Gene Sobolewski agreed with Prevost and believed he was "spot on" with his thoughts on a provincial police force. He worried what costs would be downloaded onto municipalities if an Alberta police force was established.
“When you’re comparing apples to apples, the RCMP versus a provincial police force, right now we currently enjoy a 30 per cent grant that comes from the federal government in terms of offsetting the RCMP costs and that goes, basically, into the provincial coffers and helps to offset those costs,” he detailed. “But, the other one is the aspect of admin. When we start going into the provincial police, you’re going to have an oversight body of basically government bureaucracy, that’s going to be a cost in addition to having the boots on the ground administration and whether that’s administered by the municipalities who currently do that or whether that’s offset by the provincial funds. Either way, those two costs have to be made up somehow. It's either going to be on the backs of the municipalities, ergo the taxpayers, or something has to be done and that really wasn’t spelled out or addressed very well in the Fair Deal Panel.”
Another issue raised by council was what would happen to the RCMP special units, such as the Bonnyville General Investigation Section (GIS), which have made a significant impact on crime in the area and across the province.
“The amount of work that’s gone into them and the amount of drugs that they’ve taken off our streets, it’s a lot,” stressed Coun. Chad Colbourne. “I don’t feel like it would be a good move and I’m in full support of keeping our RCMP where they are.”
A number of councillors believe the province should look at addressing the problems the Fair Deal Panel pointed out in the RCMP instead of creating a completely new police force.
“Are there issues with the RCMP? Yes, there are issues with the RCMP,” noted Coun. Brian McEvoy. “My feeling on this is the province should work to address those issues because they’re not significant ones, they’re minor issues and with a few tweaks here and there... I fully support leaving the contract with the RCMP. The policing they’re doing is very good, with a few minor tweaks, we could make it better.”