RCMP costs under scrutiny

Salmon Arm Coun. Kevin Flynn has a positive take on the ultimatum put forward by the federal government for the province to renew its contract with the RCMP by November or risk losing the police force by 2014.

Salmon Arm Coun. Kevin Flynn has a positive take on the ultimatum put forward by the federal government for the province to renew its contract with the RCMP by November or risk losing the police force by 2014.

The announcement shocked many municipal leaders, including Flynn, when it was relayed through B.C.’s public safety minister and solicitor general, Shirley Bond, at this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Sept. 26 to 30.

Now Flynn, who for some time has been working through UBCM on negotiating a 20-year contract for RCMP services, is pleased the issue has been brought to the forefront and has gained the province’s attention.

“I’ve been there for three years, as the chair of the UBCM Community Safety Committee, so I know what’s going on. It really wasn’t at the forefront for most municipal politicians or MPs or MLAs until UBCM, and now everybody is getting up to speed on it very quickly,” says Flynn.

Another benefit of this ultimatum, Flynn says, is that it finally has the province looking at alternatives, such as a provincial police force. But Flynn states emphatically that this is not the direction B.C.’s municipal leaders want to go in.

“At the end of the day I think it needs to be made very clear, that our preferred option is to continue a relationship (with the RCMP)… that works financially and with regards to partnership, accountability and cost containment,” says Flynn.

Flynn says it is understood that there is no money to address the current cost-sharing formula that has cities like Salmon Arm paying 90 per cent of policing costs.

The key concession that municipalities are after is having some input into the RCMP contract that, for Salmon Arm, is the single largest annual budgetary expense.

“Salmon Arm, as a percentage of our budget, is lower than most municipalities – we’re like 21 or 22 per cent,” says Flynn, adding the average is closer to 28 per cent, with some as high as 35. “The issue is that you get a bill that says it’s going up this much with no explanation as to why, no understanding as to why, and no input into that.”

Flynn notes that when negotiations on the RCMP contract began, the federal government told B.C. that it couldn’t negotiate on its own, that the feds would only deal with the provinces as a group. Then the federal government signed separate agreements with Alberta and Saskatchewan. Those agreements, says Flynn, include a “me-too” clause that would give those provinces any benefits B.C. gains through its negotiations.

“It’s just mind-boggling one, that they’d do that, and then secondly, give us an ultimatum and point to those two provinces and say they’ve signed a deal, why won’t you.”

Flynn hopes the federal government’s line in the sand sparks involvement by MPs and MLAs on the issue, which he emphasizes is not about the work Salmon Arm’s and other detachment’s are doing in their respective communities.

“I think our municipality, the province and the federal government will be better served by the RCMP,” says Flynn. “This isn’t about us not wanting the RCMP.”