Alberta's UCP government is facing opposition from the National Police Federation (NPF) on its provincial police service proposal, calling it “unpopular and costly.” They said the province should bolster existing policing rather than transition to a new model.
A 2021 PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by the province said the RCMP costs Alberta about $500 million annually. The report found that those costs would rise to $735 million annually for a provincial service, on top of $366 million in startup costs.
Alberta has long debated replacing the RCMP with a provincial police service, as recommended in the Fair Deal Panel Report released in June 2020.
According to the report, many residents expressed frustration with local crime and the RCMP's policing, despite respecting the organization. However, some want to keep the RCMP out of “sentimental attachment” or “a concern about the extra cost and red tape associated with creating a provincial police force.”
Overall, presenters felt the RCMP became “too bureaucratic to respond to local needs,” and their resources were too thin. They said the RCMP's habit of moving officers around the province hurt police effectiveness and that the force “was unable or unwilling to confront activists who terrorize farmers.”
Many law-abiding gun owners also expressed concern with the policing group's heavy-handed enforcement of gun laws.
“Why should Albertans pay Ottawa for the RCMP to come and confiscate our guns?” asked one presenter. “The bottom line was that Alberta needs to be treated with respect, and this lack of respect led to injustice.”
On Friday, firearms owners across Canada breathed a sigh of relief when the federal government withdrew amendments to Bill C-21 that would ban hundreds of thousands of shotguns and rifles commonly used by hunters, farmers, sport shooters and Indigenous Peoples.
However, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino tweeted that their decision to withdraw the amendments “was merely a pause in their campaign” to ban several models of shotguns and rifles.
“Law-abiding firearms owners know this is thinly worded code signalling Minister Mendicino's intent to continue pursuing avenues to ban widely owned shotguns and rifles,” said Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that further action will need to be taken to respond to the federal government's hostility.”
In September, the province announced it would challenge federal plans to conscript the RCMP to implement the firearms confiscation program.
Amid criticism, the NPF urged the province to invest in the RCMP over three years instead of “redirecting taxes to an unpopular and costly proposed provincial police transition.”
“Modern policing requires pragmatic approaches to supporting and delivering effective public safety for communities and their residents — particularly, rural and remote areas served by the RCMP,” said president Brian Sauvé.
“Against the backdrop of a growing population and evolving criminal environment, we believe it's time to invest in both policing and public safety for the benefit of our communities and all its residents.”
The NPF recommended the UCP allocate $164 million to increase regular member strength by 633 additional positions and 250 administrative support staff and another $45 million to support modernized and sustainable equipment resources. They also requested $20 million for holistic responses to mental health calls.
Public Safety spokesperson Dylan Topal told True North that the NPF should have addressed the structural issues around the RCMP's contract policing model and legitimate questions concerning its sustainability.
He added that the province has yet to decide on establishing an Alberta Police Service.
Shandro said in November that consultations with municipalities remained ongoing.
“This is a conversation happening everywhere in the country,” he said. “And we think Alberta is on the precipice of being a leading voice and modernizing policing in the country.”
However, Topal said the UCP initiated efforts to transition Alberta “on its own terms” should the feds end RCMP contract policing or reduce its $170 million in funding to the province through cost-sharing agreements.
According to the Fair Deal Panel report, the current contract only provides police services in rural areas. Municipalities of over 5,000 people currently have agreements with the RCMP without any provincial involvement.
Mendicino received a mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to assess RCMP contract policing in consultation with provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security also released a report in June 2021 recommending that the feds explore ending contract policing and work with the provinces and municipalities to help those interested in establishing their police services.
“It would be negligent and bad governance not to explore all options available to keep Albertans safe,” said the Public Safety spokesperson. “The provincial government has a responsibility to approach policing and public security issues from the perspective of making Alberta a safer place for everyone.”
“Exploring whether a new policing model could reduce response times, better address the root causes of crime, and provide consistent and reliable service to everyone in Alberta is part of the government's commitment to safer communities for all.”