The National Police Federation is calling the Alberta government’s provincial police service proposal “unpopular and costly,” saying funds should be spent to bolster existing policing, not to transition to a new model.
A 2021 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, commissioned by the province, said the RCMP costs Alberta about $500-million a year. Those costs would rise to $735-million annually for a provincial service, on top of $366-million in startup costs, the report found.
A provincial police service has long been debated as a means to give Alberta more autonomy. It was recommended in the provincial government’s Fair Deal Panel Report released in June 2020.
The National Police Federation said the province would be better off making investments in the current policing system over three years, instead of “redirecting taxes to an unpopular and costly proposed provincial police transition.”
“Modern policing requires pragmatic approaches to supporting and delivering effective public safety for communities and their residents – in particular, rural and remote areas that are served by the RCMP,” said president Brian Sauvé.
“Against the backdrop of a growing population and evolving criminal environment, we believe it’s time to invest in both policing and public safety for the benefit of our communities and all its residents.”
The NPF suggested the funds could be spread through $164 million to increase regular member strength by 633 additional positions and 250 administrative support staff, $45 million to support modernized and sustainable equipment resources, and $20 million for holistic responses to mental health calls, among other things.
Dylan Topal, spokesperson for Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mile Ellis, said no decision has been made to establish an Alberta Police Service. Rather, the province has begun work to ensure Alberta can transition “on its own terms” if the federal government ends RCMP contract policing or reduces subsidies when current policing agreements expire in 2032, he said.
Topal said there are indicators the federal government is looking to re-evaluate current policing agreements “and it would be negligent and bad governance to not explore all options available to keep Albertans safe.”
“The provincial government has a responsibility to approach policing and public security issues from the perspective of making Alberta a safer place for everyone,” he told True North.
“Exploring whether a new policing model could reduce response times, better address the root causes of crime and provide consistent and reliable service to everyone in Alberta is part of the government’s commitment to safer communities for all.”
Ottawa contributes $170-million to the Alberta RCMP under the current agreement. Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are also studying the feasibility of a provincial service.
Topal said the National Police Federation failed to address the significant structural issues around the RCMP’s contract policing model and legitimate questions about whether it will remain sustainable in the future.
In his new mandate letter, Public Safety Marco Mendicino has been directed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to conduct an assessment of RCMP contract policing in consultation with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities.
And in June 2021, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security released a report in June 2021 recommending that the federal government explore the possibility of ending contract policing and work with the provinces and municipalities to help those interested establish their own police services.
In August, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said it’s incumbent on the provincial government to look at innovative ways to improve policing in its communities.
“This is a conversation that is happening everywhere in the country,” he told True North. “And we think that Alberta is on the precipice of being a leading voice and modernizing policing in the country.”
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith voiced support for a provincial police service during the party’s leadership race last summer.