April 11, 2023
Edmonton, AB – Below is an OpEd from Brian Sauvé, President, National Police Federation, in response to a recent piece by Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid, regarding a provincial police force proposal:
“In his column of April 5, Mr. Braid got several things right, including that Albertans want to keep the RCMP and that any proposal to do so is entirely political. However, we also want to capture the federal government’s stated intentions about contract policing across Canada.
As the union for ~20,000 RCMP Members serving across Canada, we’ve been following Government direction on this topic very closely. Most importantly, the federal government has not stated an intention to end contract policing in Canada, but rather a commitment to consult with communities to better serve them. We and our Members welcome ongoing improvements. RCMP Members all across our country provide police services that are envied and emulated around the world and are highly supported locally.
Facts matter, and in this case, it’s helpful to look at key government documents: The 2019 Ministerial transition binder for then-Public Safety Minister, Bill Blair, notes that 22% of Canada’s population and 75% of our land mass are policed by the RCMP through 166 individual contracts. The federal government’s share of these contracts, ranging from 10 to 30%, is reaching $750 million annually. Many are negotiated individually between the federal and local government (province, territory, or municipality), clearly adding to federal costs for administration and complexity. It also notes “Provincial responsibility for the administration of justice includes policing matters. It has been the Government of Canada’s objective since the 1960s to decrease its contract policing financial liability.” Decreasing financial liability and eliminating contract policing are very different positions. (The federal government has not been recouping all policing costs from its partners.)
A later 2021 transition binder for now-Public Safety Minister, Marco Mendicino, outlines the complexities of policing in Canada – including rising costs – stating that contract partners need to be consulted on RCMP policing service changes.
It is clear that the federal government has heard the concerns from contracting partners about rising costs and a desire for more local control, which the NPF and its Members support. As the expiration of the current policing contracts nears in 2032, advance consultations with provinces have already begun to better understand how contract partners want to be policed, which may result in improvements to future contract policing models. As an example, recent amendments to the Alberta Police Act are examining how the RCMP could be included in the provincial independent public complaints process, allowing Alberta more local accountability.
As Mr. Braid asserted, Albertans do not want an expensive police transition, evidenced by the recent Leger survey finding that 58% disagree with the creating a new provincial police service. Pollara Strategic Insights has conducted several successive waves of province-wide research for the National Police Federation — with more emphasis on RCMP-served communities — and found only 9% of Albertans support the transition.
His position that this proposal is entirely political is also correct. In May 2020, the Alberta Fair Deal Panel’s own findings established that a police transition was at the bottom of priorities for Albertans. The Province already has oversight and management of the Alberta RCMP, protected within the contract – as displayed recently by the Alberta RCMP’s refusal to enforce the federal firearms buyback program, aligned with direction from the Alberta justice minister.
Whether by error or intent, the Province of Alberta has been misleading Albertans about the federal government’s position on the future of contract policing. We believe it’s particularly important that this protracted discussion be based on the record and facts as the provincial election approaches, so Albertans have an opportunity to choose a government they trust with their future.
While Mr. Braid contends that creating a new provincial police service is “inevitable”, there are only two real inevitabilities in life – death and taxes. Ironically, proceeding down an unpopular and expensive path to replace the RCMP will guarantee that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.”
About the National Police Federation:
The National Police Federation (NPF) represents ~20,000 RCMP Members serving across Canada and internationally. It is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada and second largest in North America. We are focused on improving public safety in Canada for our Members and all Canadians by advocating for investment in policing and other related supports and services. This includes calling for required resourcing, equipment, and supports to enhance community safety and livability in the communities we serve, large and small, across Canada.
For more information: https://npf-fpn.com/
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Fabrice de Dongo
Manager, Media Relations
Coordinator, Media Relations