Several municipalities in British Columbia are raising the alarm over what they say are completely unexpected pay raises the federal government has mandated for the RCMP, but in a statement issued Friday, the federal government said they knew it was coming.
Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender said Thursday that he only learned this week that the RCMP were given permission to seek raises in last week's federal budget.
The news has come as a shock to provincial and municipal officials, who just signed a new 20-year contract with the national police force.
The agreement, which is essentially identical to contracts reached in five other provinces and three territories, comes a year after B.C. threatened to pull out of negotiations altogether and set up its own force.
The officials say the deal, signed only two weeks ago, was supposed to end a history of costly surprises.
But Fassbender said there was no mention of pay raises during the negotiations.
"This was being done by Treasury Board, which is where the pay council for the RCMP is housed," Fassbender said. "And it was part of the federal budget. So what's disappointing is that there was no heads up given by Treasury Board to anybody, even in their own federal ministry, that this was going to be coming down."
Fassbender said, from what he understands, the Treasury Board's directive allows RCMP members to receive pay raises over each of the next three years, beginning immediately.
Fassbender said he did not know details on the amount of the raises, but he and other municipal leaders are concerned that the additional expense could be an unforeseen financial hit in the millions of dollars per municipality.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, whose city is home to the largest RCMP detachment in the country, said she feels she's been blindsided, and B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said she was caught off-guard and has asked Ottawa for clarification.
Terms shared a year ago, Ottawa says
But Friday, the office of the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, issued a statement that defended the raise and claimed that the provinces were informed of it last year.
"Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe. That means giving our frontline police officers the tools they need to do their job. RCMP members have received a small raise, consistent with other Government of Canada employees," the statement said.
"Under the terms of the recently concluded agreement, B.C. will have a greater role in determining future compensation. In fact, the terms of this raise were shared with the provinces in April 2011 and discussed during a teleconference in July 2011."
The public safety ministry also stated that the 2012 Economic Action Plan will save $195 million from the RCMP budget, with the majority of the savings "realized in administrative efficiencies that will also reduce costs for contract jurisdictions, like B.C."
At this time, the CBC does not know the amount of the mandated pay raises. Financial details of the Treasury Board's directive have not been made public.