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The future of the Alberta RCMP remains in limbo

The National Police Federation (NPF) has released a report that shows Albertans are in favour of keeping Royal Canadian Mountain Police as the primary law enforcement for Alberta. NPF wants the Government of Alberta to scrap its pursuit of a provincial police force and reinvest in the province’s existing law enforcement systems.
Directors for the Prairie and North region for the National Police Federation and former RMP members, Jeff McGowan (left) and Kevin Halwa (right) presented to Lakeland Residents at the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre on Feb. 16.

LAKELAND – The future of whether a provincial police force will replace the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) as the primary law enforcement across Alberta remains uncertain. 

Since 2020, the UCP government began an exploration into the viability of transitioning provincial law enforcement from the RCMP into a new Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS). 

Replacing the RCMP with a provincial force was a recommendation stemming from the Fair Deal Panel carried out in 2019 and 2020. 

When asked if the establishment of an Alberta police force, replacing the RCMP, would help the province improve its place in the federation, 35 per cent of Albertans polled said it would. 

RELATED STORY: Municipalities weigh pros and cons of regarding proposed provincial police force 

The provincial government then moved forward with a $2 million feasibility study completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on the topic that began in October of 2020 and was later published in November of 2021. 

PwC developed a proposed policing model and suggested that the concept was “realistic, cost-effective and worth further study.” 

However, this perspective is not shared by the majority of Albertans according to a summary report released by the National Police Federation (NPF) on April 27. 

The NPF document, Your Police – Your Future: Listening to Albertans, states that the results of “three rounds of public opinion research through Pollara Strategic Insights have consistently shown that only less than nine per cent of Albertans support such a transition.” 

Province-wide, 84 per cent of Albertans do not support replacing the Alberta RCMP, according to NPF. In rural northern Alberta communities, 85 per cent of respondents were opposed to replacing the RCMP with an APPS. 

“This research has shown that Albertans do not want to pay for increased costs and instead want additional resources to be invested into the Alberta RCMP to continue to reduce and mitigate rural crime and more funding within the Alberta justice system to tackle the issue of repeat offenders,” states the NPF report. 

The report also points to a general disinterest in pursuing a provincial police force from the very start. 

“The (Fair Deal) Panel’s own survey showed that most Albertans do not support this idea, ranking it second last in terms of priorities for Alberta.” 

The report also highlights several frequently asked questions that have gone unanswered in relation to the province’s pursuit of an Alberta police force.  

“What is so broken it must be replaced instead of fixed?” posed the NPF report frequently asked question portion.  

Further, questions were asked about where the additional 30 per cent of funds that currently comes from the federal government’s coffers for RCMP services will come from after the transition to a provincial police force. Also, it is unclear how the province will replace the 3,500 RCMP members with provincial police officers. And questions remain about why members of the public were not allowed to attend the government’s APPS consultations.

Mayor weighs in 

The Town of Bonnyville’s Mayor Elisa Brosseau attended both NPF’s Keep Albera RCMP public engagement session as well as the Government of Alberta’s closed provincial police force engagement session. 

Speaking to the government's closed session, Brosseau says that both presentations did speak to many of the same points, “And of course, their perspectives and views differ when looking at the current situation and provincial services.” 

“I think it was great information coming out of both, and it definitely opened my eyes to think of (police services) in different ways," said Brosseau. 

When it came to the government’s decision to limit their engagement sessions to municipal and Indigenous governments, law enforcement organizations and public safety partners, Brosseau said that provincial representatives indicated the restriction for members of the public was because the province is still in an “exploration phase.” 

The mayor said that to be completely transparent, she believes the provincial government should release some form of information to the public on the topic. 

"They don't want to put anything out there that they don't really know at this time themselves,” Brosseau told Lakeland This Week. “But we know that if you don't fill the void with something, then misinformation can get out there.” 

Beyond that, there does seem to be a general bewilderment about the pursuit of a provincial police force and the costs related to studying its prospect. 

On March 15, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) passed a resolution to “request the Government of Alberta not create an Alberta Provincial Police Service.” 

“I mean, if you're still not sure that this is actually what you want to do, and you're still exploring, then they definitely are putting a lot of money and time into going around the province and doing these presentations to elected officials and doing this study with Pricewaterhouse (Cooper),” said Brosseau. 

“If it is something you are still exploring, and you're still not sure. Is it worth putting all that money into it? I don't know. That's definitely a question that I have.” 

The Alberta government has yet to indicate a timeline for when a decision on whether to transition to a provincial police force is expected to be made. 

“In the end, if they decide they are not doing this, again, that is a lot of money and time spent on something that you're not going to do. So, is that a responsible way to spend provincial money? I don't know,” Brosseau added. 

The Keep Alberta RCMP Community Engagement Tour held meetings in 38 municipalities with five additional virtual sessions, and other meetings with stakeholders and organizations as requested. 

Government officials held 14 virtual stakeholder engagement sessions between November and December of 2021, followed by roughly 70 in-person and virtual meetings earlier this year.

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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