Province steps in as Coaldale fights to pay less for RCMP services

Click to play video: 'Southern Alberta town seeks federal support for RCMP costs' Southern Alberta town seeks federal support for RCMP costs
According to the mayor of Coaldale, Alta., the town is the only one of its size to pay for RCMP services in full. The town is trying to persuade the federal government to provide support under a cost-sharing agreement already used in many other communities. Eloise Therien has the latest. – Jun 8, 2022

The Town of Coaldale is continuing its years-long battle to obtain a cost-sharing agreement for its policing services with the federal government.

“We were dealing with the New Entrants Guidelines,” explained Mayor Jack Van Rijn. “If you were historically policed by the RCMP, you would get the policing contract at a 30 per cent discount.”

But that hasn’t happened. According to Van Rijn, the town would be paying around $460,000 less per year if a federal partnership was in place.

“We could use that (money) because right now, we’re looking at building a new second swimming pool, we’re looking at a second sheet of ice. We have roads that need to be repaired, we have sidewalks that need to be replaced.”

And they aren’t technically a new entrant.

In the past, Coaldale had its own police service before officially joining up with the Lethbridge Regional Police Service. It returned to Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2016.

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“If you have a population of 5,000 or less, the policing costs are covered by the federal government. If you are between the 5,000 and 15,000 population, it’s a 70/30 split.”

Coaldale has a population of approximately 8,700 people. The town has been advocating to the federal government for support for several years, without any progress.

“We’re the only municipality in all of Canada, based on our population, that’s paying 100 per cent.”

On Monday, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro penned a letter to request help for the Town of Coaldale, who — despite being able to prove they were previously served by the RCMP in the early 1900s — are on the hook for 100 per cent of the policing cost.

The letter was sent to the Minister of Public Safety of Canada, Marco Mendicino.

Click to play video: 'Support for RCMP discussed in Lethbridge as Alberta considers provincial police force' Support for RCMP discussed in Lethbridge as Alberta considers provincial police force
Support for RCMP discussed in Lethbridge as Alberta considers provincial police force – Jan 19, 2022

“I understand the concern was to limit larger municipalities that hold economic viability to pay for independent police services from converting to RCMP municipal contracts, merely for the 10 per cent or 30 per cent cost savings,” Shandro’s letter read.

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“It was not necessarily intended for emerging municipalities at the lower population threshold range between 5,001 and 14,999.

“Providing a 70/30 cost-share arrangement to these new entrants would necessitate minimal cost impact to the federal government and have an immense benefit to these municipalities.”

In the letter, Shandro also compared Coaldale’s situation to that of New Brunswick municipalities.

“I understand there are two examples of communities impacted by the (New Entrants Guidelines) which subsequently benefitted by cost-share arrangements under the municipal (Policing Service Agreement) with agreement from Canada, as a result of the 2012 (Provincial Police Service Agreement) re-negotiation,” Shandro wrote.

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The Town of Sackville, N.B. paid 100 per cent of its own RCMP policing services for about a decade between 2003 and 2012 before the policy change.

“As we all know, policing is a very high expense,” said Sackville mayor Shawn Mesheau.

“Any opportunity that we can kind of share that cost with the federal government is important for us as a community, for our area and to our taxpayers.”

Mesheau said the cost-sharing agreement is saving them around $500,000 in annual expenses.

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“We really appreciate and (need) the federal government to be there to help deliver those key services to our residents.”

Global News contacted Medicino’s office for comment on the letter and concerns raised by both the province and the town.

“Minister Mendicino has received Alberta’s letter and we look forward to working with our provincial and municipal colleagues to ensure that all residents of Coaldale are supported,” read the entire statement from the director of communications Alexander Cohen.

RCMP Alberta said, as service providers with no decision-making power in this situation, it would not be able to comment.

As of Wednesday, Van Rijn told Global News he had not yet heard back from the federal government.

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