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Alberta Provincial Police Service discussions remain ongoing

The discussion for replacing the RCMP with an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) remains ongoing. Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro told Lakeland This Week on July 28 that no decisions have been made.
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LAKELAND – The discussion for replacing the RCMP with an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) remains ongoing.  

Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro told Lakeland This Week on July 28 that no decisions have been made. Shandro also stated that the interim Alberta Premiere, Jason Kenney, said there will be no major policy shifts before his retirement in October. 

Minister Shandro said he has been listening to Alberta municipalities and politicians, including concerns that the scope of previous consultations were not wide enough to allow for a political conversation to take place. He added that he committed to them and is meeting with municipalities to answer questions and gather feedback. 

“So, this would then be left to a future government after there's a new Premier [and] a new cabinet [and] if I'm in it or not, I don't know,” he said. “I guess it will be up to those folks to make a decision on [the] next steps.” 

Shandro also stated, “I think the number one bit of feedback that I have heard from municipalities... is their concern that this is going to result in increased cost to municipalities, and we've made the commitment to municipalities that this is not going to result in increased cost to them,” he said, speaking to the potential of a provincial police force. 

Calgary-Bhullar-McCall MLA and NDP Critic for Justice and Solicitor General Irfan Sabir told Lakeland This Week on July 25 that rather than focusing on the potential creation of the APPS, the focus should be on more urgent issues, including record high inflation, reducing crime, and making sure the court systems are processing crimes in a timely manner. 

Sabir also said the UCP former Finance Minister Travis Toews admitted that replacing RCMP with APPS will cost Albertans more. Sabir said, “(Travis Toews) admitted that it will cost more, and before, all along, they said that it will not cost more.”

Sabir believes Alberta will lose $200 million in federal funding for the RCMP in addition to $366 million in transition costs, on top of “$286 million in additional policing costs (that) were downloaded onto municipalities,” when the police funding formula was changed. He added that the only way municipalities can pay is to either raise taxes or property taxes, which are collected from their constituents. 

Replacing the RCMP with the APPS should wait, according to Sabir, at least until the RCMP’s investigation to the UCP 2017 leadership campaign is completed.

“When they're trying to replace RCMP in the middle of an investigation, that begs the question of, why are they doing it now? Why not wait until that investigation has concluded?” he said. “Second thing is there is an election coming up next year, or even sooner, (and) they should put that as a ballot question and Albertans can decide what they want.” 

Minister Shandro affirmed there is no political motivation behind the proposal of replacing the RCMP, stating that it is not a partisan issue. He also said that it is not only Alberta aiming to get out of contract policing, but also provinces like British Columbia, where an all-party committee came up with a report recommending provincial police to replace the RCMP. 

On June 27, dozens of rural municipalities, including the Town of Vermillion and the Village of Myrnam, in addition to organizations including the National Police Federation, sent a letter to Premier Kenney, stating that 84 per cent of Albertans want to keep the RCMP.

“Municipalities and engaged Albertans continue to call on the Government of Alberta to improve rural police response times and increase resources available to the justice system. The Province’s $2 million Transition Study did not highlight how a new APPS would address any of these issues,” states the letter. 

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson told Lakeland This Week on July 25 that he respects the RCMP and believes that they are doing a great job. 

“The problem that we're facing... is the revolving door in our justice system,” said Hanson. “We have the same perpetrators committing crimes, (and) even if (the RCMP) arrest them - they're out the next day.” 

He added, “I understand the frustration of folks and we can't really point the finger at just the RCMP, it has to be pointed at the justice system.” 

Background 

The provincial government received the Fair Deal Panel Report on June 2020, and among the recommendations include ending the RCMP and establishing an APPS. 

In October of 2020, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) was contracted by the provincial government to conduct a Transition Study report for the purpose of assessing the “current services, capabilities and costs of RCMP services in Alberta, and support the development of a new provincial policing model that may be considered by the Government of Alberta, and the potential costs and steps required to transition from the RCMP.” 

The PwC’s Final Transition study was released in November 2021, and according to the report, the scope of the study does not include recommendations to the Government of Alberta regarding if it should pursue a provincial police service or not.  

According to the study, an effective police force must connect and integrate with other provincially delivered services such as “health services, family and community services, addictions support, and education” to address the root causes of crime and disorder. The study stated that the proposed APPS can directly build “integration points” with these provincially delivered services, which is currently not possible in the “current model.” 

The study added that the RCMP, as a federally operated police service, is attempting to build these integration points to provincially delivered services as a response to changing demands. On the other hand, a provincial police service has “unique opportunity to determine what its role will be within a broader community safety and well-being ecosystem and build collaboration and integration with other agencies into its core design.” 

The PwC report also identified that further detailed study and engagement with relevant stakeholders needs to be completed to confirm the assumptions made in the study, more specifically the need for a “meaningful engagement with Alberta’s Indigenous people, communities, and groups as a key priority.”  

It stated that it also provided a list of areas that requires further assessment to improve the “policing model recommendations” outlined in the study. The study added that development of these areas require input from local communities and the future Chief of APPS to guarantee that future police services are designed and established to best serve the needs of Albertans. 

If Alberta chooses to create the APPS, the study estimated a six-year transition period which will cost $241 million in operating costs and $125 million in capital expenditures, for a total of $366 million. The PwC report also estimate the APPS will cost $735 million annually. 

In comparison, the study estimates the total provincial policing currently costs $783 million which includes $671 million for the RCMP. The other $112 million comes from the $70 million in anticipated increases for RCMP salary, and $41 million from the current cost of Sheriffs.