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West Kelowna to sign RCMP contract despite pay raise ‘surprise’

Despite the surprising news of RCMP wage increases last week, West Kelowna council opted to authorize that the mayor and city clerk execute the Municipal Police Unit Agreement (MPUA) on Tuesday.

Marnie Manders, director of administration with the District of West Kelowna, told council that the MPUA outlines the terms and conditions agreed to between the province and individual municipalities that choose to have the RCMP serve as their municipal police force.

She added that the goal of the MPUA is to provide municipalities with some foresight on costs that are coming down the pike and ideas of what those costs might be for.

“The whole backbone of the (MPUA) was the transparency, the building of the relationship between the two parties and accountability from the RCMP,” said Manders.

That transparency was questioned last week when news broke that the federal government had approved pay raises for the RCMP.

“On Thursday we got a shock that the RCMP was provided pay increases—which the province had absolutely no knowledge of—that had gone through the federal government.”

Manders told council that the RCMP received a 1.75 per cent increase as of Jan. 1, 2012, they will receive a 1.5 per cent increase on Jan. 1, 2013 and a two per cent increase on Jan. 1, 2014.

Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender has sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on behalf of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) expressing concerns over the pay raises and additional costs that might be associated with them.

Manders explained that several other municipalities are waiting to see what UBCM’s next move is.

“They’re looking at getting all the mayors together on a conference call to try and explain how these costs will impact the municipalities and what’s happening in the future.”

Despite last week’s series of events, West Kelowna council still had the task of deciding whether or not to sign the Municipal Police Unit Agreement during Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Doug Findlater said his gut reaction was to hesitate before signing it.

“My thinking is perhaps we should be holding off and supporting the other municipalities in the UBCM. It just seems maybe even a week premature until the dust settles on this one. I think we maybe have to push back a little bit by holding off,” said Findlater.

“It may be the wrong time if we want to support what some of our friends on the coast are trying to do. They’re saying basically that this agreement, which everybody seems so happy about, has already been violated and the ink isn’t even dry. It’s quite incensing for that reason.”

Coun. Duane Ophus disagreed with the mayor. He said that the DWK shouldn’t delay signing the document.

“I think that we should sign the policing agreement and get on with it. I don’t see anything wrong,” said Ophus.

“The numbers that Ms. Manders read out here seem pretty reasonable to me, particularly in light of other recent settlements that we’ve seen. My suggestion would be let’s sign it and get on with it. That’s going to be the ultimate outcome anyway, so let’s just be realistic about it.”

Coun. Bryden Winsby agreed with Ophus.

“I think we should move along. I think all we’d be doing by delaying is making a statement, and I’m not too sure what that statement would be and how effective it would be," said Winsby.

"I’m disappointed at the cavalier attitude of the federal government, but I guess when you’re dealing with horses, that’s what you get."

Winsby added that it might be worth the district’s time to look into costs associated with setting up its own municipal force.

“We deal with these things as a matter of speculation and guesswork. Perhaps the time is coming where we have to crunch some numbers. We may not agree with them, but at least we’d have an accurate picture of what it would cost to set up our own department.”

Coun. Rick de Jong motioned, somewhat reluctantly, that the DWK sign the agreement.

“I’ll put this motion forward to sign. But I want it on record that I as well am extremely disappointed with the federal government on this matter. (It was) poorly handled in light of the new contract; supposed transparency (was) non-existent on this case,” said de Jong.

Council unanimously voted for the mayor and city clerk to sign the contract.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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