RCMP ultimatimum leads to talk of regional B.C. force
Published Thursday, September 29, 2011 7:59AM PDT
Calls for a regional police force have gotten louder after Ottawa warned B.C. it will pull out the RCMP if the province doesn't sign a proposed policing contract soon.
Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender has been trying to negotiate a new 20-year deal with the Mounties on behalf of communities across B.C., but says talks aren't going well.
Local politicians are asking to have some say in how the RCMP spend their money.
"Basically, we have no control," he told CTV News. "That's not acceptable; we can't operate that way.... We can't scrutinize the books -- we have no way to audit the costs."
Ninety per cent of the RCMP's budget in B.C. comes from taxpayers in the province, and policing is the biggest expense for municipal governments.
At the annual meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities Wednesday, delegates voted to put an end to the Mountie-led integrated policing teams like the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
The vote was symbolic and non-binding, but it was a shot across the bow for mayors and councillors.
"We have got to bring focus and awareness," Fassbender said. "I am convinced today that most of the federal members sitting in Ottawa are really not aware of the systemic issues Ottawa faces in the running of the RCMP."
The current contract between the provincial and federal governments concerning the Mounties expires on March 31. The feds have given B.C. until the end of November to sign a proposed contract, threatening to pull out all RCMP services in 2014 if that doesn't happen.
The federal government seems unprepared to budge, but says it is prepared to work out a solution.
"We do not force provinces to accept the RCMP. We think it's a good deal, but it's up to the provinces to do it," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said during question period Wednesday.
B.C. Solicitor General Shirley Bond says she's now working on Plan B for policing in the province.
Criminologists and civil libertarians have long called for a provincial force, believing it would be more accountable to British Columbians.
And former solicitor general Kash Heed has been lobbying for regional policing since his days as chief of the West Vancouver Police Department.
He says now is the perfect time to turn away from the Mounties.
"I don't think we should blink -- I think we should order those moving trucks. I think we should sit down and do the work we need to do," he said.
Heed estimates that it will take about two years to establish a provincial police force, and says that the benefits will outweigh the costs.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Rob Brown