Column: RCMP contract handcuffs

The provincial and federal governments are in a deadlock about whether the RCMP should remain in B.C., to do provincial and municipal policing. This leaves Surrey, with the largest RCMP detachment in the country, squarely on the horns of a huge dilemma.

Mayor Dianne Watts made that point abundantly clear last week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, when news of the impasse over a 20-year contract became public.

One of the sticking points in the negotiations is cost containment. Municipalities have some very good reasons for insisting on this as a feature of the new agreement, because in the past, directives from Ottawa have have often put a huge burden on local taxpayers. Cities make up for these costs, which have often been handed down unexpectedly, through property taxes.

Some future hits are on the horizon. One is the ballooning cost of the E Division headquarters in Green Timbers. Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender said costs could rise to $1.2 billion.

Another potential cost on the horizon involves labour costs. The RCMP is non-union, but there has been a move underway to unionize the force. If that were to happen, RCMP members could start receiving overtime.

Surrey has said repeatedly that it wants to keep the RCMP, and the working relationship between the city and the Surrey RCMP detachment is excellent. Assistant Commissioner Fraser MacRae, commanding officer of Surrey RCMP, works well with the political and administrative leaders of the city.

Surrey also likes having a large RCMP presence, as the RCMP will always deal with federal policing matters like border issues and immigration cases – and there are plenty of cases on both fronts in Surrey.

Surrey is reluctant to set up its own police force, although that would likely be a possibility if the RCMP contract is not extended.

The RCMP contract should be extended, but with the understanding that a civilian agency will oversee investigation of all police-related deaths and serious injuries, as is planned. There also needs to be cost containment measures, so that municipal taxpayers don’t get stuck with large and unexpected bills.

If the federal government was willing to sign a contract, limiting a rise in RCMP expenses to no more than two per cent per year, municipal governments would have more certainty. This would also act as an incentive for Ottawa to keep a closer eye on RCMP costs. If for some reason, the costs rise more than two per cent, Ottawa should be prepared to absorb those additional costs, as it has much more taxing ability than any other level of government.

What we are seeing now is the challenges that go into negotiating a new contract. What we would like to see is a contract that treats all parties – the RCMP members, all three levels of government and taxpayers – fairly, and allows the RCMP to keep policing Surrey as effectively as they have in the past 60 years.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

Just Posted

Plans for new Surrey hospital to be updated Monday

News conference announced by Premier Horgan and health minister Adrian Dix

White Rock pier-plank purchasers celebrated

Donors received a certificate Sunday marking their purchase of a pier plank

Seniors plead to Surrey council ahead of public hearing for 1,000-plus unit development

In June, seniors in the buildings said they felt ‘left in the cold’ as plans for redevelopment materialized

Several people in custody following reports of shots fired into a Surrey home

Police say the incident happened in the early hours of Saturday morning

White Rock looking at 3.9% tax increase

Budget discussions are to take place this week

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Four men in hospital after early morning Vancouver stabbing

A large group of men was seen fighting in Yaletwon

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Most Read