VICTORIA - The RCMP will continue providing police services to six provinces and three territories for the next 20 years as part of a renewed Canada-wide agreement-in-principle announced Wednesday.
British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and the three territories say they have reached a deal with Ottawa, which will soon become final.
B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond and Attorney General Andrew Swan of Manitoba said the agreement gives the provinces more input in RCMP decision making.
"We've made some very significant gains," said Bond, highlighting more provincial and municipal input on an RCMP contract management committee.
"I'm confident that we've gained some very new and quite strong tools that will help municipalities and help us make sure that in the future, costs won't simply be transferred to municipalities without a pretty good explanation and a pretty good review by the different levels of government," she said.
Bond said B.C. will establish a new local government advisory committee that ensures municipalities have a voice as the agreement is implemented.
She said the renewed deal includes a two-year, opt-out clause and a five-year review.
Bond said the agreement still requires cabinet approval, but she suggested British Columbia should "sign a final deal in the not-too-distant future."
"From my perspective, British Columbians today, I think, can be confident that after a lot of hard work we've made some significant gains in terms of accountability and potential cost-containment tools, and we will now work to finalize that deal as quickly as possible," she said.
Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial forces, so are not covered by this deal. Alberta and Saskatchewan had broken ranks and signed agreements with the federal government earlier this year.
A federal government spokesman said Alberta and Saskatchewan will receive any additional benefits negotiated by the other provinces and territories as part of their earlier deals.
British Columbia has the largest contingent of RCMP officers, so took the lead in negotiations.
The sometimes testy negotiations saw Ottawa impose a deadline of Nov. 30 to sign a deal or face the prospect of the Mounties leaving. Bond said B.C. was looking at forming its own provincial police force to replace the RCMP.
Swan said Manitoba is moving towards signing a final agreement.
"We have a draft agreement in principle," he said. "We believe the details have all been negotiated. There was a pretty long discussion ... but we've now resolved those things and we're prepared to get the agreement signed."
Swan said Manitoba was seeking more input in decision-making matters involving the RCMP.
"We wanted to make sure that we have a place to give our input for decisions the RCMP will be making over the next 20 years," he said.
"Decisions such as staffing, (and) to deal with new issues that arise in policing."
Federal public safety minister Vic Toews said the deal comes into force April 1, 2012 and lasts until 2032.
"It offers increased input into issues affecting the quality and standards of contract policing, as well as ensures a fairer sharing of the actual cost of operating a police service in each jurisdiction," said Toews in a statement.
"This agreement represents a win–win situation for all jurisdictions."
The RCMP issued a statement saying it was pleased about the new contract.
"Our focus continues to be on working with our partners and communities to keep British Columbians safe, something we remain committed to and have done proudly since 1950," said Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, the force's senior media relations officer in B.C.
The Mounties in B.C. have been embroiled in several highly public cases, including the Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton and the Air India terrorist bombing probe, raising public concerns about their tactics and professionalism.
The RCMP's website reports about 26,000 regular and civilian employees work for the force across Canada.
Of those, more than 9,500 regular and civilian employees work in B.C.'s E Division, the largest of the RCMP's 15 divisions in Canada.
The Surrey, B.C. detachment is the largest in Canada, employing 640 regular and civilian members and a support staff of 238 municipal employees.
But B.C. Opposition New Democrat house leader John Horgan said he's not convinced Bond's tough talk about cutting RCMP costs and her threats to form a provincial police force produced results at the negotiating table.
"The government made lots of posturing statements during the negotiations, but I'm not confident they backed any of that up," said Horgan.
"They talked at one time about going it alone. . .but we saw no evidence that any of the intellectual rigour was put into that position."