By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
After eight years of being saddled with 100 per cent of policing costs to contract out the service to the RCMP, the Town of Coaldale seems to be making headway on the issue, at least with the provincial government.
Coaldale is the only small municipality between with 5,000-15,000 residents that is forced to pay 100 per cent of the costs for RCMP policing. The rest of the country enjoys a 70-30 cost-sharing agreement whereby 30 per cent of costs are covered by the federal government and 70 per cent are paid by the municipality. As a result, Coaldale has been responsible for paying $4 million in additional costs to contract the RCMP in Coaldale since the RCMP took back over the policing service in 2016.
The Town has been forthright in their position that the prolonged lack of action by the federal government to resolve the cost-sharing agreement has added financial strain to the Town. Last week, the Town of Coaldale endorsed the Alberta government’s work to study the feasibility of creating a provincial police service.
The endorsement from Coaldale for the province to further explore the viability of a provincial police service comes after the Town previously expressed support for keeping the RCMP in Alberta. Last Tuesday, Mayor Jack Van Rijn reiterated, “We have no issues with our RCMP. We’re very happy with our detachment in Coaldale. Staff sergeant, Mike Numan is doing an awesome job(…) we have no concerns with them.” He added, “our problem is with their bosses and Ottawa.”
Coaldale has been denied federal funding on the basis that the town switched to contracted police service through the RCMP after Public Safety Canada, a federal government department, introduced the “New Entrant Guideline” in 1992. The guideline effectively ended the federal subsidy for communities which were never policed by the RCMP. However, according to the province, while Coaldale was policed by the Coaldale Police Service from 1954-2003, prior to 1954, the town was policed by the RCMP for “several decades”.
van Rijn reiterated the Town’s issues with the current arrangement have nothing to do with the current service provided for the Town by the RCMP and is a matter of the financial burden which has not been resolved at a federal administrative level.
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Tyler Shandro, spoke in support of Coaldale last week. “The federal government has failed Coaldale. Discriminating against small-town Alberta and forcing ratepayers to pay $4 million in extra costs is unacceptable. This is yet another example of why Alberta needs to consider adopting a provincial police service. The federal government’s administration of policing is incompetent. That’s why British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are all looking at an alternative.”
Mayor van Rijn said the Town is paying close to $460,000 a year in additional policing costs which could go toward investing in capital projects and investments in the Town’s infrastructure. “We’re talking about replacing our swimming pool. We need a second sheet of ice. We need roads repaired; we need sidewalks replaced. So, that’s where the money could be going,” he said.
This issue has been an ongoing priority for previous Coaldale councils Van Rijn said, “We (now) have our provincial government that is looking into it for us, and we’re hoping that we can make a case,” and added, “we’ve done everything that we can,” at a municipal level to have the situation rectified. He also noted the former councils have tried, without success, to reach a cost-sharing agreement in line with the rest of the country’s similarly sized municipalities. “We’ve been dealing with this for eight years.”
Ministerial changes and a federal election have forced the municipality to “hit reset” on the issue time and time again for nearly a decade.
“We think we’re getting somewhere and then there’s a change in government or there’s a change in ministers office and then we start all over again,” van Rijn explained.
With nearly 10 years remaining in the current contract with the RCMP, there are millions of dollars at stake for the Town. “At the end of the day, that $460,000 is a lot of money, and our contract doesn’t expire with the RCMP till 2032, so do the math.”
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