Smith orders final decision and launch of Alberta Police Service
Alberta’s new premier is pushing ahead with a plan to ditch the RCMP and create a provincial police force, despite a report that it will cost taxpayers more.
Danielle Smith made the order in a mandate letter Wednesday to Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis.
In it, she asked Ellis to work with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to « launch an Alberta Police Service (APS) ». In Shandro’s letter, she asked him to « finalize a decision » on the matter.
Both letters were made public on Thursday, but did not contain a timeline for when changes might be made. The two ministers came out this week in favor of an APS.
« Rural crime is still a problem and really it comes down to public safety, » Ellis told CTV News Edmonton of why it’s happening.
The former cop didn’t deny that the changes Smith wants will come with higher costs, but argued it was a worthwhile investment.
« We’re all for fiscal responsibility. I know I am. I know the Prime Minister is. But it won’t come at the expense of those who are most vulnerable and it certainly won’t come at the expense of public safety. »
Shandro told rural municipal leaders Wednesday that the current structure, in which the RCMP decides how policing dollars are spent in Alberta, is not working.
« We have 113 detachments. Almost 40% of them have less than 10 officers in each of those detachments, » Shandro said at the fall convention of Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) in downtown Alberta. Edmonton.
« And a lot of these detachments are, quite frankly, run with little money. Because sometimes they only have three or five sworn members in each of these detachments. So we need to be able to have more of a say. »
Smith also gave a speech to RMA on Thursday, but she didn’t mention a police force in her remarks. She did not respond to reporters’ questions afterward.
‘BILLION DOLLAR BOONDOGLE’
A 2021 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, released by the government, indicates that RCMP service currently costs Alberta about $500 million a year. The federal government is providing $170 million under a cost-sharing agreement.
The report says that if Alberta decides to go it alone, it would cost about $735 million each year, in addition to $366 million in start-up costs.
Last summer, the president of the RMA castigated the plan of the UCP government and 70% of its members voted against.
“It will be very expensive. It’s gonna be a billion dollar mess. We see it coming and for some reason this government wants to move on,” Paul McLauchlin said at the time.
Municipalities in Alberta also rejected the idea. In March, its members voted 144 to 34 against the policing models the UCP government is considering.
« If this is about improving policing in Alberta, let’s identify the problem and maybe get the RCMP to fix it, rather than go a whole different route, » said President Cathy Heron. at CTV News Edmonton in June.
THE NDP OPPOSES THE CHANGES
The Alberta NDP has promised to scrap plans for a provincial police force if elected in the spring.
« The cost of getting rid of the RCMP and creating a provincial police force is money that should be spent simply on increasing support to reduce crime in our communities, » Chief Rachel Notley said Wednesday.
« What will be lost in this process, is the main goal of reducing crime, preventing crime, fighting crime? »
Ellis’ mandate letter also directs him to ‘work with Indigenous, mid-sized and rural communities’ to tackle high crime rates and review training for Alberta sheriffs so they can be involved. in a « broader scope of policing ».
« When you call 911 in rural Alberta, we’ll make sure someone shows up, » Ellis said.
With files from Saif Kaisar of CTV News Edmonton, The Canadian Press and St. Albert Gazette through Ihe Local Journalism Initiative