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‘Another non-answer’: Lack of funds for rural policing irks Salmon Arm council

UBCM requests increase from ministry, city says its police budget grows while rural safety at risk
Salmon Arm council perturbed with provincial government response to request for funding for rural policing, because city-funded police budget grows while need for rural policing increases. (Black Press Media file photo)

It would be an understatement to say Salmon Arm council was not thrilled with the provincial government’s response to its request for more provincially funded police in rural areas.

“Money has been put aside supposedly in the 2023 budget effective April 1st. It doesn’t talk to how you get prioritized, it doesn’t talk to how you get an extra officer,” said a disgruntled Coun. Kevin Flynn. “In the 20-plus years, 18 of them at this table with a three-year community-imposed holiday, I have heard this same thing every time we’ve asked. I’m tired of it. It’s another non-answer from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.”

At the 2022 Union of BC Municipalities convention, a resolution from the City of Salmon Arm was accepted by member municipalities and then presented by the UBCM president to the provincial government. The resolution essentially asked that the ministry increase the number of provincially funded police officers immediately and ensure future allocations meet rural demands for policing. In the preamble, the city pointed out rural populations are growing steadily, yet provincial policing numbers haven’t increased at the same rate as municipally funded positions. It said the lack of officers affects rural safety while putting a strain on municipal budgets.

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The resolution related directly to Salmon Arm’s policing predicament. Despite many attempts to increase the number, Salmon Arm has had the same number of provincially funded rural police officers for 20 years, who are responsible for areas outside of the city. Meanwhile the number of municipal officers, which are 90 per cent funded by local taxpayers, increases.

“My message is, enough of the double speak and talking around the issue. Start looking at rural policing and start prioritizing areas that haven’t seen a new officer, even though they’ve doubled in population, in 15 years. So, thank you to the UBCM president, but no thank you to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General,” Flynn said.

Flynn directed a remark to Mayor Alan Harrison, referring to a previous meeting on the topic.

“I was good cop in that meeting and you were bad cop – so to speak, and this answer is a bunch of nothing, one more time.”

Harrison responded, smiling: “I think you should play the bad cop next time. It didn’t work very well with me doing it.”

Harrison referred to the next UBCM convention in September 2023, when municipal councils have an opportunity to speak directly to ministers or ministry staff.

“I think we need to go at it jointly. We need Area C, Area G reps there. There’s a new Solicitor General. I’m not blaming him, it’s a huge department. But you’re right, we haven’t had an increase in policing since 2005, which is almost 20 years now,” Harrison said.

“We are supporting the policing out there (in rural areas) with our tax dollars. There is no doubt about it.”

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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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