More than 70 rural Alberta municipalities are asking the United Conservative Party to stop plans to create a provincial police force.
In a letter sent Monday to the premier, the group says the government has lost the trust of its constituents in its pursuit of a provincial police service “by not undertaking fulsome, open and transparent consultations with all those affected,” the letter reads.
The group — consisting of crime and police agencies, union, Victim Services, dozens of towns, villages and municipalities — says “Albertans have stated loud and clear that they do not want a costly new police service, with an overwhelming 84 per cent of Albertans wanting to keep and improve the Alberta RCMP.”
It is asking that resources shift towards increasing RCMP officers and improving social services.
“We felt that there would be an increase to costs,” said Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam. “And, while they say it’s not going to be born by municipalities, it’s going to have to be somewhere.
“So, whether that comes as an income tax — or wherever it happens to happen — but in order to maintain that same level of service, there was going to be an increase to costs somewhere.”
Gandam says municipalities are worried they would have to shoulder the costs of the proposed change. The letter states the province has not released a detailed funding model explaining who would be paying and the “transition study” was vague.
“One of the unintended consequences since the province started talking about a provincial police service is the RCMP’s improved level of service,” Gandam said.
“Maybe seeing some of the gaps they had before, reading the PWC report, working off of that and improve the level of service that they’re providing right now has been a great first step.”
The group is also calling on the province to hire more Crown prosecutors and appoint additional provincial court judges.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice said the 100-page PwC report (October 2021) was “far from being vague.”
“PwC Canada developed a model that outlines how a made-in-Alberta provincial police service could put more frontline personnel in communities across the province — including mental health and addictions specialists — at a cost that is lower than, or equal to, the current RCMP contract policing model,” said Joseph Dow.
He added that the document and a 127-page future state report examine “the operational requirements, process steps and potential costs of a provincial police service,” as well as “outlining a potential organizational structure that includes increased mental health and addictions capacity within the police service that could help better address the root causes of crime.”
Dow said there were 60 meetings in late 2021 and early 2022 between department officials and municipalities, Métis and First Nations representatives across the province, “where JSG officials answered questions about the policing model and heard stakeholders’ opinions on the concepts being proposed.”
He said stakeholders have been asking government to provide more information about a potential transition to a provincial police service and have asked for more chances to ask questions and give feedback.
“Minister Shandro will be continuing those discussions with representatives of municipalities, Métis Settlements and First Nations in a series of meetings to be scheduled this summer,” Dow said, adding no final decisions have been made.