With policing being one of the biggest budget items for any municipality in this province, it was little wonder that the impasse over the current RCMP contract between the province and federal government was a hot topic of conversation at last week’s Union Of B.C. Municipalities meeting.
Not only do B.C. cities, towns and villages have a vested interest in the contract from a public safety point of view, the bottom line cost of using the RCMP is picked up, in large part, by the taxpayers in those communities.
In the Central Okanagan, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and Peachland all pay the lions share for policing in their jurisdictions, so a fair, equitable, transparent and accountable deal is what’s required.
But according to the province, that’s not what Ottawa is offering. And hence the impasse.
But with few exceptions, B.C.’s civic politicians are lining up behind Solicitor-General Shirley Bond to support her stance as she resists the take-it-or-leave-it position of the federal government.
While Kelowna and its neighbours are not actively looking at a “plan B” approach of having their own municipal police forces, at least one Okanagan community is.
Vernon says while it would prefer to have the RCMP patrolling its streets, it is looking at a force of its own if that’s the route is has to go. And, its mayor says the cost is not out of reach.
Wayne Lippert says given that his city owns much of the infrastructure the RCMP uses in Vernon, establishing a Vernon municipal police force is doable.
For years municipalities have wanted more control over the police in their communities and recent high-profile events have only increased the volume of those calls.
But on the whole, despite the actions of a few rogue officers, the RCMP is worth keeping here and everything possible should be done to keep it as the the local police force here.