EDITORIAL: Get the RCMP deal done already

Instead of grandstanding, the B.C. Liberals should be making better use of their time – especially when it comes to the long-standing talks with Ottawa over a new contract for the RCMP.

Last month, B.C. Solicitor General Shirley Bond said she received a take-it-or-leave-it “ultimatum” from the Conservatives – including a threat to pull the Mounties out of the province by 2014 if B.C. didn’t sign a new contract by the end of November.

While both sides have agreed on the 20-year term for the contract, the dollar amount, the idea the RCMP needs checks and balances, and the funding formula (there are some 6,000 RCMP officers in B.C., with a federal contribution of $800 million, a provincial commitment of $300 million and municipalities paying $500 million), rising policing costs and accountability remain sticking points.

Bond wants B.C. to have a greater influence on controlling costs and said the federal government has been unwilling to discuss the issue.

Last week, Vic Toews, minister of public safety, said on the contrary, he had yet to receive proposals from Bond on the matter.

“Our government is willing to renew contract policing agreements with the provinces and, in fact, I’m awaiting the suggestions that the B.C. solicitor general indicated that she would forward to my attention,” Toews said during question period last Tuesday. “To date, I’ve not received them.”

Later in the week, Bond said she’d be “absolutely happy” to forward proposals to Ottawa.

Oh, just get on with it. This deal has been in the works for four years, so an approaching deadline is just that – a deadline, not an ultimatum.

For Surrey, there’s an added incentive to get the contract signed. The cost of the yet-to-be-completed RCMP E Division headquarters in Green Timbers has ballooned from $300 million to a jaw-dropping $1.2 billion.

One would think proponents of this mega-project – a public-private partnership between the government of Canada and Green Timbers Accommodation Partners – would have been reasonably certain that the intended tenants would materialize before inking the deal. There is only one taxpayer after all.

If the anticipated 2,700 Mounties and support staff don’t show, who will fill that expensive building? A provincial police force that will somehow manifest – cost-effectively, of course – in two short years? Not feasible.

Besides money, there’s a lot at stake with this contract, including a decades-long history of the force in B.C., national pride, and the livelihoods of the dedicated men and women in red serge who put their lives on line each day to keep the citizens of this province safe.

Get back to work, Victoria. Stay out of the spotlight and get the deal done.

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