The shape of policing in B.C. is in much doubt, following revelations that the federal and provincial governments are at odds over the next RCMP contract.
Provincial Solicitor General Shirley Bond revealed the deadlock when she spoke to municipal officials at the UBCM convention.
Cooler heads need to prevail. The RCMP need B.C. just as much as B.C. needs the RCMP. There are 6,000 Mounties working here — the most of any Canadian province. If their contract isn’t renewed, many of them will be out of a job.
B.C. is right to insist on greater accountability for the RCMP. The public has demanded this since the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport, at the hands of Taser-wielding RCMP officers. While a civilian oversight agency is being set up, the RCMP themselves must be more accountable to the province and local governments.
Municipalities also have grave concerns about budget implications. There is a good chance that the RCMP will become unionized, and that employee costs will rise sharply. Even if wages stay the same, there could be significant overtime bills. Municipal budgets can’t handle large, unexpected costs such as this and some assurance about how much costs will rise in the future is crucial.
The federal government, which has the most tax authority in the country, should be willing to accept a one or two per cent annual cap on additional costs to be borne by the province and municipalities, and absorb anything above that figure.
The two sides need to get back to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith.
At the same time, the province and municipalities need to have a plan B fully in place, in case no deal can be reached.