July 20th, 2024

UCP provincial policing plan leaves a bad taste

By Letter to the Editor on September 29, 2021.

The RCMP has just ratified a new wage and benefits package which has them owed some millions of dollars in back pay.
So, now, the UCP government is claiming that that back pay is a reason to look at establishing a provincial police force.
Say what?
Let’s look at the math.
To begin with, as it now stands, the feds cover 30 per cent of the cost of RCMP contracts in Alberta, the municipalities are on the hook for 15 per cent, rising up to 30 per cent by 2023 which leaves the provincial government ponying up the rest.
Not chump change but that 30 per cent the feds pay isn’t exactly chicken feed, either.
And that amount, let us remember, would be borne by the province and the municipalities in its entirety were the province to go its own way.
The municipalities would still be owing that 30 per cent of the cost of policing and that amount would have increased substantially.
Nor would establishing and maintaining a brand new force with the attendant support staff – police cars, police stations and so on – be cheap.
The Feds would be totally out of the picture.
Now, maybe Jason and the gang would be willing to pick up the tab for a bunch of intangible reasons.
Municipal governments in Alberta are the poor relations when it comes to who gets the biggest lick of the lollipop.
They have no real revenue stream aside from property taxes, user fees and grants from other levels of government and are severely limited as to the amount of debt they can take on to finance large scale infrastructure projects. Which means paying for a provincial police force with all it’s attendant added costs would fall disproportionately more heavily on the municipal governments and even more onerously on the rural governments who are already having trouble with deadbeat oil and gas companies. All of which comes out of things like repairing the road where the culverts washed out last spring.
And don’t hold your breath waiting for the province to cut a cheque to cover any of this. They’ve been busy doing everything short of grabbing the pop bottle money from the municipalities’ lunch rooms to pay for various cabinet ministers’ pet projects ever since they came into office and that ain’t gonna change.
Municipal councillors know this. You get a lot of them off the record and they’ll tell you they’re getting royally shafted by the province.
They’ll tell you that the distinguishing feature of their relationship with Edmonton is the complete and utter lack of respect on the part of the province for rural and small town Alberta.
And now, to top it all off Jason and the boys are trying to light some sort of a grass fire around rural policing in hopes that’ll lay down a smokescreen to hide the failure to deal with any of the real and chronic needs of all those voters in the faithfully conservative small towns, farms and ranches across the province.
I don’t mind a little self-serving hypocrisy on the part of politicians of any stripe.
In fact, I’ve come to expect it from this government but this does leave a bit of a bad taste.
Ken Sears

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