POLITICS
10/06/2011 02:41 EDT | Updated 12/06/2011 05:12 EST

Nova Scotia justice minister says Ottawa should be more open on RCMP talks

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's justice minister says he's disappointed that Alberta and Saskatchewan have broken ranks with other provinces as the group negotiates new RCMP contracts with Ottawa.

Ross Landry was reacting Thursday to reports that the federal government has threatened it may withdraw RCMP officers from several provinces and territories in 2014 if a new contract is not reached by the end of next month.

Landry said Ottawa should be more open to some of the suggestions put forward from the provinces — but he's confident an agreement can be reached before the deadline.

However, he also said Alberta and Saskatchewan's decisions to sign contracts with Ottawa has altered the course of negotiations.

"I would have preferred that as a collective group we would have done it as a unified body, but that's not the case," Landry said after a cabinet meeting.

He wouldn't say what the outstanding issues are, but the former RCMP officer stressed that Nova Scotia is satisfied with the policing services it receives from the Mounties.

Landry declined to say what would happen if a deal couldn't be reached and the federal government delivered on its threat.

"It's a bit premature for me to be making decisions," he said. "These are negotiations. Things can be heated ... I'm confident that an agreement will be made."

The governments of British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick also say the federal government has told them to reach an agreement by the end of November or RCMP officers could be pulled in three years.

The federal Public Safety Department has said it is willing to sign new agreements with the provinces, but they must decide if they want to "come on board," adding that the same terms and conditions would apply to all provinces. Ottawa wants to secure a 20-year policing contract.

Deborah Nobes, a spokeswoman for New Brunswick's Department of Public Safety, said that province wants to obtain an agreement that is based on "improved accountability and cost containment."

"As the RCMP is New Brunswick’s provincial police service, all of our efforts at this time are focused on negotiations with Canada to come to a new agreement," she said in an email.

In Nova Scotia, provincial Tory justice critic Allan MacMaster said Landry hasn't been forthcoming about the talks with Ottawa.

"We don't have much information to go on," MacMaster said, adding that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities hasn't been included in the negotiations even though the province's towns and cities pay a significant portion of the policing bill.

"If he was a little more forthcoming about what his plan is, then it would help put people at ease."

About 26,000 regular and civilian employees work for the RCMP across Canada.