It may be one of the biggest line items in Kelowna’s municipal budget, but the city’s mayor was still in the dark Wednesday about how the new contract between the province and the federal government for RCMP service in B.C. will affect Kelowna.
Walter Gray said while city hall has received a draft report about the agreement, it has not gone to council yet and neither he nor his council had not been briefed on it by city general manager of corporate services Paul Macklem.
With the province and federal government signing the new 20-year deal in Surrey on Wednesday, Gray said he expected council will hear from Macklem on Monday.
“At this point it is too early to say,” said Gray when asked if he is was happy with the new RCMP contract.
The deal does not change the cost-sharing formula currently in place— the city will continue to pay 90 per cent of policing costs with the remaining 10 per cent picked up by Ottawa—but it does give B.C. municipalities more say in controlling costs and standards, said Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was an observer during the contract negotiations between the provincial and federal governments on behalf of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Fassbender has said the new deal includes several improvements for municipalities, including what he called cost containment, accountability and transparency.
The deal also gives the province and individual municipalities an opportunity to opt out with two years notice if they want to form their own provincial or municipal police forces instead of using the RCMP.
B.C. Attorney-General Shirley Bond said municipalities can expect to see a one per cent increase in policing costs in the first year of the new deal and a potential retroactive pay increase for RCMP officers could be an outstanding cost from the old contract.
Currently, policing costs Kelowna nearly $20 million per year and, recently, a consultant hired to to look at how many RCMP officers Kelowna should have recommended hiring 15 more cops. In its recent budget deliberations, the city council agreed to fund four more officers and a crime analyst.
With 128 municipal RCMP officers, Kelowna has been rated as the most under-policed metropolitan area in the country when its caseload per officer is taken into account.
Gray, who during the municipal election campaign said he supports keeping the RCMP as the city’s police force and feels a move to a city force would be more expensive, said it is unclear to him if the draft copy of the agreement the city received will be changed now that the final agreement has been signed.
One of the provisions of the new deal is that it will be reviewed every five years to make sure it is working properly for each municipality in B.C. that contracts the RCMP to provide police services in their community.
The deal also calls for increase financial reporting by the RCMP. provincial aproval for the adoption of new security equipment, building improvements, changing administrative staffing levels and changing policies or standards that impact how many offers service in B.C.
Currently, there are 13 municipal police forces in B.C. and several First Nations have their own cops as well.
Fassbender said the new contract will give municipalities much stronger input because it is now recognizer they pay the “lion’s share.”
In non-incorporated areas, B.C. pays 70 per cent of the costs and Ottawa pays 30 per cent, while in municipalities with 5,000 to 15,000 people,the municipality picks up the 70 per cent share.