Municipal officials are pushing hard for meetings with their federal and provincial counterparts to address rapidly increasing RCMP costs.
Delegates at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities meeting in Whistler last week passed a resolution to aggressively lobby the provincial and federal governments over escalating police costs to local communities.
In addition to costs, municipal leaders are pushing for increased accountability from the RCMP.
The UBCM resolution stated that a series of meetings be organized "as soon as possible" involving federal cabinet representatives, provincial cabinet representatives, the B.C. caucus and local governments.
There is no guarantee that these efforts will be successful. The UBCM has no authority or law-making abilities. Rather, it's a policy-setting body that acts as that common voice for all B.C. municipalities.
"I'm not that optimistic that we're going to get everything that we'd like to have," said Peter Fassbender, mayor of Langley and co-chair of the RCMP Lower Mainland District Mayors' Forum, in an update to delegates on the status of contract negotiations. "But if we win on a couple of the key elements, even some of those cost drivers that aren't directly a part of the (cost-sharing) formula, that will be money in the pockets of local government to put in to local services."
The RCMP contract negotiations were a hot topic at last week's convention. Policing costs are one of the largest issues facing municipal budgets across the province. There's province-wide concern that the federal government will download further costs onto municipalities. Aside from a possible cost-sharing formula leaning more heavily on the municipalities, other expenses may include footing legal fees for defence in civil court and new officer equipment.
"What the feds are saying, to put it in a nutshell, if you had your own provincial police force you would be paying for all of those things, so therefore we think you should be paying for them in these new contract negotiations," Fassbender said. He noted that the provinces and the territories have rejected these proposals in their discussions with the federal government.
A second UBCM resolution was endorsed last Thursday relating to the specific costs of RCMP self-monitoring and defense in court. The delegates voted to lobby the provincial government so none of those costs fall to the municipalities.
"(The UBCM is) a partner with the provincial government, and that means we're working with them to negotiate with the feds," Fassbender said. "That doesn't mean that we agree with them but we are partners, which means we have to put pressure off the federal government."
At the end of the day, he said, the UBCM is looking to be treated as equal partners with the provincial government, so they can have meaningful input into the decision making process.