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RCMP salary hike, federal census could mean big costs for Cold Lake

Cold Lake city hall

COLD LAKE - Pay raises for Cold Lake RCMP officers will cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, but taxpayers won't feel the impacts of that thanks to good planning by the municipality.

The pay raise stems from a tentative collective agreement reached between the RCMP and the Government of Canada, which provides retroactive salary increases back to 2017. On Aug. 10, city council heard the retroactive pay between 2017 and March 2021 would amount to an estimated $334,995 for the city, while retroactive pay between April and December 2021 would come to $120,313.

Cold Lake has 18 RCMP positions, though not all were filled throughout the year, according to an agenda report.

In future years, the increase will cost the municipality about $160,418 per year. 

Kristy Isert, the city's general manager of corporate services, told councillors the city has been putting away money for several years to pay for these increases.

“We do have $1.7 million restricted for RCMP funding to sort of lighten the effect this would have on the City of Cold Lake,” she said.

That money, which came from surpluses in the police requisition budget due to staff vacancies, will also help offset major expected costs once the city officially grows to 15,000 residents. When that threshold is crossed on the federal census, Cold Lake's share of RCMP costs will rise from 70 per cent to 90 per cent – an impact of $650,000 to $750,000 annually.

Isert said the municipality also faces equipment costs, which could include fleet vehicles, body cameras, body armour and pistols.

Mayor Craig Copeland commended staff for creating a fund to help absorb some of these costs.

“That worked out really good,” he said.

Lobbying efforts target feds

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) is pushing to have the federal government cover the costs of the retroactive pay raise, instead of having that cost fall on the shoulders of municipalities.

“We're hearing that many (municipalities) are going to really struggle with paying that retroactive pay,” Isert explained.

Maximum salaries for constables are expected to rise from $86,110 in April 2016 to $106,576 by 2022. AUMA estimates that will result in about $80 million in cumulative back pay for counties, municipal districts and municipalities with less than 5,000 residents, and $60 million in back pay for municipalities with more than 5,000 residents.

The collective agreement is the first of its kind between the federal government and the RCMP, and comes about after about five years of negotiations.