POLITICS

B.C. RCMP Deal: Contract Details Revealed, Province Gets More Control

03/21/2012 05:00 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT
CP
SURREY, B.C. - Ottawa's decision to cede control over how the RCMP spends its money tipped the balance in negotiations with British Columbia to keep the Mounties in the province, B.C.'s justice minister said Wednesday as she signed a new, 20-year agreement with the federal government.

Six months ago, politicians in B.C. were publicly threatening to ditch the Mounties altogether and set up their own police force if Ottawa didn't meet their demands for a greater say in how the RCMP manages its local operations.

The federal government blinked, B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said Wednesday, giving provinces and municipalities more control over how the RCMP runs its operations and spends its money, as well as who is appointed to senior management positions.

Bond said that was the deciding factor for B.C., which has the largest contingent of Mounties of any other province.

"The added piece of this contract is contract management ability to contain costs — it's unprecedented," Bond told reporters in Surrey, B.C., after signing the agreement with her federal counterpart.

"For the first time, we will have the ability to question costs, to look at breakdowns of costs, to look at, 'Do we really need to have those things in British Columbia?' That is an enormous management gain."

The new deal includes six provinces and three territories. Alberta and Saskatchewan broke off from collective negotiations and signed their own deal last year, while Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial forces and aren't covered by the deal.

Last fall, the negotiations deteriorated into brinkmanship.

In September, Ottawa issued a take-it-or-leave-it offer to B.C. and other provinces, giving them a month to sign on or risk losing the RCMP.

B.C. responded with its own threat, saying it was considering setting up its own provincial force.

Within a week, both sides had returned to the table, eventually hammering out an agreement-in-principle that was announced at the end of November.

Under the new contract, the provinces and municipalities will be part of a contract management committee that must sign off if the RCMP wants to increase or reduce service, make major policy changes or do anything else that would increase provincial or municipal policing costs.

The management committee will also have input into the hiring of senior management, such as the officer in charge of municipal detachments, who essentially fills the role of police chief.

The contract includes a two-year opt-out clause, and a mandatory review every five years.

Both Bond and federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said they'll be using the new structure to look for ways to keep costs down.

"It's obviously in our best interest to have cost containment," said Toews.

"Any costs that the province is paying, we're also paying a share of that. Coming from my own experience as a provincial attorney general (in Manitoba), I thought that this is a very good way of proceeding."

The force will also fall under the responsibility of B.C.'s new independent investigation unit, which will investigate serious allegations involving police officers in the province. This was a major concern in B.C., where the death of would-be Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who was stunned with a Taser by Mounties at Vancouver's airport, put a spotlight on RCMP accountability.

The new contract will see costs increase slightly.

The basic structure remains unchanged, with the province paying 70 per cent of the costs of policing rural and unincorporated areas of the province and Ottawa picking up the remaining 30 per cent.

Medium and large municipalities that use the RCMP as their local police force will pay 90 per cent of policing costs, with the federal government paying 10 per cent. And communities with 5,000 to 15,000 residents will pay 70 per cent.

The provincial share for B.C. is currently about $310 million per year, and that figure will jump by about $5.7 million for 2012-2013 — an increase of 1.7 per cent.

Cities with populations of more than 15,000 people are collectively paying $458 million right now, and that total will increase by $2.35 million in the coming year, or 0.69 per cent.

Smaller municipalities will together pay $320,000 more, which is about one per cent more than the $54 million they already pay.