03/21/2012 10:13 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. to sign new 20-year RCMP contract

The B.C. government will sign a new 20-year RCMP contract with the federal government that includes significant changes for cost sharing, accountability and transparency.

Details of the deal are to be announced today by federal Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond at a signing and news conference in Surrey.

The new agreement will also give the province and municipalities much more input into controlling costs and standards, according to Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was an observer at the contract talks on behalf of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Municipalities now pay 90 per cent of the contract costs, with the federal government paying 10 per cent. That won't change, but under the new deal the federal government will pick up a larger portion of bills for special integrated units — 30 per cent.

Fassbender says the deal includes a number of other improvements.

"I think it's got a number of components that are major steps forward in terms of a new partnership, cost containment, accountability and transparency, so I think there's some major wins in it," said Fassbender.

"We're going to have a much stronger input as local governments. Because we pay the lion's share, I think there is a recognition that we have to be treated as a full partner in this process as opposed to a client who gets the bill," he said.

"We will be integrated into the planning and the cost rationalization and all of those things moving forward."

The 20-year contract will be reviewed every five years and if municipalities or the province aren't satisfied with the deal they can give two years notice to opt out and form a city or provincial force.

Months of stalled negotiations

The deal follows months of wrangling between the province and Ottawa over the renewal of B.C.’s agreement.

The spat became public in September 2011 when B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond described the negotiations as “stalled and stonewalled on the federal side.”

Bond also said the federal government had threatened to pull the federal force out of B.C. after the current contract ended in 2014.

That led to speculation that B.C. would form a provincial police force, as Ontario and Quebec have.

B.C. has the largest RCMP contingent in Canada. The force polices all rural areas of the province and all municipalities except for 13 urban areas and First Nations lands where there are local police forces.

Several other provinces have also been negotiating RCMP contract renewals in the past several months.

In February, Nova Scotia announced it had extended its policing agreement for 20 years.