Up until last year, Jim Chute had served as one of the Peace region’s two representatives on a local government working group that was advising the provincial government’s contract renewal team for most of the previous five years. Chute said while the agreement announced last week does not contain any changes to the overall funding formula for policing, it does give municipalities more control over the items that drive costs up.
“Basically what municipalities are getting is the right to be consulted, and considerably more predictability to make their budgets, but no relief from the fact that policing is going to continue to be 25 to 40 per cent of many municipal budgets,” he said.
In Dawson Creek, local taxpayers pay 70 per cent of policing costs, while the federal government pays the balance. Total policing costs, both operational and capital, account for about one-third of the city’s budget, though Chute noted some new staff members have joined the detachment recently and building upgrades have been made this year. He said while that formula remains the same, municipalities can now negotiate with the RCMP over administrative and capital costs.
“That’s things like wages for an RCMP member, technological costs when systems are changed as they have recently been, equipment costs, buildings and vehicles,” he said. “There had been no consultation with either the Province or the municipalities before decisions were made that were going to significantly increase costs. Under the new system, there will be a full consultation process around any proposed cost changes. There will be a committee set up that monitors the application of the contract.”
Chute was referring to the proposed Contract Management Committee (CMC) that will include representation from all three levels of government to oversee how the RCMP delivers police services and how costs are managed. He added the RCMP has agreed to more oversight from the Province and municipalities on other issues related to the public interest.
He said while there was some discussion of alternatives – such as establishing a provincial police force, or municipal police forces such as is done in some cities such as Vancouver – the overall consensus was to retain the services of the RCMP for policing in British Columbia.
“It’s still generally considered by municipalities in B.C. that the RCMP is the gold standard for policing,” he said.
The tentative agreement includes a two-year opt-out clause and a five-year review. The provincial government states more details of the agreement will be released when appropriate. Chute said there are still several provisions in the contract that all parties agree are vague and need to be rewritten, and he expects those details will be finalized shortly.