New Brunswick municipalities cry foul over RCMP back pay bills

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New Brunswick municipalities cry foul over RCMP back pay bills
WATCH: Municipalities in New Brunswick are sounding the alarm on new RCMP cost hikes. Communities in the province were handed bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover back pay for officers. It comes as towns ask why they weren’t given a seat at the negotiating table – and whether or not they should keep the force around. Zack Power reports. – Apr 10, 2023

Municipalities in New Brunswick are sounding the alarm over rising RCMP costs throughout the province. Back pay from officers without a contract has forced some districts to pay bills in excess of $250,000.

The deal was negotiated by the federal government and the RCMP union, and is retroactive to April 1, 2017.

The Canadian government has told municipalities around the country they are required to foot the bill.

In Hampton, N.B., the town was charged over $130,000 in back pay for its officers. According to its mayor, the town has already seen a sharp increase in costs for the force, doubling from 2008.

Robert Doucet said that while the town is prepared to take the financial hit, municipalities should have had a seat at the negotiating table.

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“We had no input or knowledge of it,” Doucet told Global News in an interview.

“No one is at the table to negotiate if and how we’re going to pay for it.”

He said that due to workforce issues, the visibility of the RCMP has hit new lows throughout his community. He said the rising costs of the service have left his town considering other options for policing.

It’s a similar conversation in the town of Grand-Bay Westfield, which is expecting a bill in the six figures for the back pay. RCMP costs are one of the largest bills the town faces in its budget, and the mayor said the community may have to consider raising taxes or reducing options, neither of which she wants to do.

“I liken that to, for instance, you going shopping with my wallet, and I’m not there to approve or consult in the entire process,” said Brittany Merrifield told Global News.

“We don’t have a lot of flexibility in the amount of revenue we bring in.”

According to the New Brunswick Union of Municipalities, RCMP costs have been an issue for councils across the province. Issues around the rising cost and visibility have been top of mind.

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“If you feel the RCMP is not visible enough in the community, then you start to wonder if the cost is valid and worth it,” said Andrew Black, the union president.

“Policing, in general, has been a concern around the province. A lot of that revolves around visibility and the impact on their community as well as the response time.”

He said that his municipality of Tantramar expects to receive a bill near $250,000 for Sackville’s RCMP services. He said that while his community can afford it, some other towns may not be able to.

“That’s a concern for municipalities who are struggling with their own budget,” he said in an interview with Global News.

“Some communities are much much higher — it depends on what they have for a contract.”

Municipalities have two years to pay for the cost of the RCMP pay raise. The federal government was not available for comment by the time of publication.

— with files from Slav Kornik 

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