Alberta no longer pursuing plan to dump RCMP for provincial police force: justice minister mandate letter

Click to play video: 'Alberta justice minister mandate letter focuses on safety, push back against Ottawa'
Alberta justice minister mandate letter focuses on safety, push back against Ottawa
Premier Danielle Smith delivered her mandate letter to Mickey Amery, outlining his goals and priorities as the new justice minister. As Saif Kaisar reports, the letter touches on several federal policies and a focus on crime reduction. – Aug 1, 2023

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith continues to give her cabinet ministers their post-election marching orders and, on Tuesday, she issued a mandate letter to Justice Minister Mickey Amery, outlining his goals and priorities.

The letter outlines the ways the premier expects the justice ministry to uphold the law, protect Albertans and continue to defend the province’s interests at the federal level.

The Alberta government is also no longer formally pursuing its plan to dump the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in favour of a new provincial police force.

However, Amery said Tuesday the idea is not dead and his department will continue to consult with Albertans on where they want to go with policing.

A day earlier, Smith sent a mandate letter to the other minister in charge of law-and-order issues, Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis.

Story continues below advertisement

Neither letter directed them to create a provincial police force, a move that would replace the Mounties in communities that don’t already have their own officers.

Alberta’s two major cities — Edmonton and Calgary — and other municipalities like Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Camrose already have their own police forces. Grande Prairie is also creating its own force to replace the RCMP.

Instead, Smith directs Ellis to continue his work “with local communities to support them with the community policing options they believe will best serve their populations.”

The Alberta police force option has been studied and touted by the United Conservative Party government for years, but it has faced opposition — including from municipalities — over concerns on cost, implementation and staffing.

Public opinion polls have consistently suggested a majority of Albertans do not support a new provincewide force.

Story continues below advertisement

As recently as last November, the plan was a priority when Smith sent mandate letters to her first cabinet.

On Nov. 9, 2022, Smith directed then-justice minister Tyler Shandro to work with Ellis to “finalize a decision on establishing an Alberta Police Service.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

That same day, she went further in a mandate letter to Ellis, directing him to work with the Justice Ministry to “launch an Alberta Police Service.”

But in May, Smith declined to campaign on the provincial police plan during the provincial election, saying the issue would be revisited after polling day while adding, “Our sheriffs, for instance, are doing a great job.”

Amery was asked twice Tuesday in an interview to clarify the status of the provincial police force, explain why it was no longer in the mandate letters and state if it was reasonable to conclude the plan was shelved.

“I would simply say to you that we are going to continue to listen to Albertans, to learn about their needs and their challenges and their concerns, and then bring that back to (cabinet) and to caucus for further contemplation,” he responded.

However, new mandate letters place a renewed emphasis on more front-line resources to interdict gang activity, battle border smuggling and reduce crime rates.

Amery’s letter directs him to “implement a strategy to ensure violent criminals and gang members are detained and effectively prosecuted.”

Story continues below advertisement

His office is also to work with Ellis to create “a specialized prosecution unit to address deteriorating safety in Alberta’s major urban centres.”

Monday’s mandate letter to Ellis directed him to add 100 more patrol officers to Edmonton and Calgary, and create specialized sheriff-led teams to fight drug and gun smuggling, particularly along the border with the United States in Alberta.

Ellis has also been told to expand using sheriffs in street-level law enforcement, develop more units to fight gang crime, and implement an ankle bracelet monitoring program and around-the-clock bail monitoring of violent and sexual offenders.

The Opposition NDP said the United Conservative government is fighting the symptoms of crime but not doing enough to fight the underlying problem, including housing, harm reduction, mental health supports and addiction treatment.

Another part of Amery’s mandate letter flows from an earlier request from Smith to have him provide her with advice on how to deal with the justice system.

This request came after the ethics commissioner ruled in May that Smith broke ethics rules and threatened to undermine the rule of law in Alberta when, in January, she contacted her former justice minister to seek to have a specific criminal case against a COVID-19 protester not proceed.

Smith was not successful and the court case went ahead. She has since apologized publicly for her actions.

Story continues below advertisement

Her mandate letter to Amery broadens her original direction to now include advice on how all cabinet ministers — not just Smith — should interact with the Justice Department.

Asked why it was being broadened to all cabinet ministers, Amery said, “Because I think it’s important that all cabinet ministers and government caucus members understand that transparency and accountability is of fundamental importance to this government and to myself.”

Smith tasked Amery with the following points in the mandate letter:

  • As lead, working with the minister of health and minister of mental health and addiction to assess proposed federal medical assistance in dying legislation amendments to include those with mental health conditions and recommend Alberta’s regulation of the profession with regard to it.
  • Reviewing the Elections Act, the Local Authorities Election Act, Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act and other relevant election-related legislation and making recommendations that ensure election results are publicly available on a more timely basis on voting day to strengthen public trust in and the integrity of our provincial and municipal elections, including improving the investigation and enforcement of election rules before and during election periods.
  • Reviewing recent ethics commissioner decisions and the Conflicts of Interest Act to establish guidelines and rules clarifying appropriate interactions between all ministries and the justice minister and attorney general, and to make recommendations that strengthen overall transparency and accountability. Further, implementing the ethics commissioner’s recommendation regarding mandatory governance training for new Members of the Legislative Assembly so they understand the Conflicts of Interest Act and how it applies to them.
  • Reviewing the Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel’s findings, when released, with affected ministries and advising cabinet and caucus which recommendations should be implemented to improve Alberta’s emergency governance in the future.
  • Conducting a review of provincial resourcing to the courts and advancing related recommendations, including implementing remote court applications, digitization and streamlining family court matters to ensure more affordable and efficient access to the courts.
  • Continuing the constitutional challenge against the federal government’s decision to label plastics as “toxic substances.”
  • Continuing the constitutional challenge against the federal Impact Assessment Act.
  • Working through all available political and legal channels to eliminate the federal government’s consumer carbon tax.
  • As the lead, addressing the need for funding increases to strengthen Alberta’s justice system and make it more accessible, including legal aid.
  • Working with the minister of energy and minerals, who is the lead, and the minister of environment and protected areas to review the mission, policies and operations of the Canadian Energy Centre to ensure alignment with government priorities and policy.
  • Working with the minister of public safety and emergency services, to develop and implement a strategy to ensure violent criminals and gang members are detained and effectively prosecuted.
  • Working collaboratively with the minister of mental health and addiction, who is the lead, to develop compassionate intervention legislation, supporting facilities and legal processes to save the lives of those who are a danger to themselves or others.
  • Working with the minister of public safety and emergency services, to develop a specialized prosecution unit to address deteriorating safety in Alberta’s major urban centres.
Story continues below advertisement

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

Sponsored content