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Municipalities call for police referendum

Alberta Municipalities opposes the provincial police force models proposed in the PwC study
MVT RCMP meeting pins
A collection of pins at the door for meeting participants as they went into a room in the Olds College Land Sciences Building Feb. 2 to hear a presentation from two RCMP union representatives against a proposed provincial police service. File photo/MVP Staff

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - The Alberta Municipalities association says a public referendum must be held before the UCP provincial government issues any formal notice to terminate Alberta’s contract with the RCMP.

More than 300 representatives from Alberta Municipalities member communities met in Edmonton last week to determine the association’s position on the possibility of Alberta forming its own police force, as considered in the $2-million PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) feasibility report.

Local elected officials were among those in attendance, including Town of Didsbury Mayor Rhonda Hunter and Town of Carstairs Mayor Lance Colby.

Alberta Municipalities members voted on a policy position regarding the Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) proposal. In all, 144 representatives voted in favour and 34 voted against. 

The approved Alberta Municipalities policy position includes the following (quoted from the policy):

• That Alberta Municipalities opposes the provincial police force models proposed in the PwC study and develop an advocacy and communications strategy to advance our position.

• That Alberta Municipalities urge the government of Alberta to invest in the resources needed to address the root causes of crime such as health, mental heath, social and economic supports, and ensure the justice system is adequately resourced to enable timely access to justice for all Albertans.

• That prior to issuing formal notice to terminate Alberta's contract with the RCMP, the government of Alberta will put this question to all Albertans in the form of a clear referendum.

“I support retaining the services of the RCMP as Alberta police force of choice,” said Town of Didsbury Mayor Hunter. “We do have a great working relationship and communication channel with our local detachment and detachment commander. 

“I believe in the commitment of the RCMP to providing quality, diligent, and optimal policing to our municipalities and communities. I believe the RCMP are prepared to grow where they can, improve where they can, and excel where they can.”

Hunter said many questions about the provincial police force proposal remain unanswered, including the following: 

• “What work has been done to evaluate the ability of the RCMP to adjust to meet the core values, innovations, and outcomes the government is seeking? What is the problem that the government is trying to solve?”

• “How will the government ensure that the justice system is adequately resourced so that all Albertans have timely access to justice?”

• “Will the creation of an APPS create barriers for municipalities that may consider a transition to their own municipal or regional police force? Do the cost/benefit projections account for the possibility of some municipalities exploring local police forces in place of APPS?"

• “How will governance and accountability arrangements change for municipalities with MPSAs under an APPS model? Will these communities still be eligible for provincial grants to offset the costs of policing?”

• “There has been no public consultation – will there be public consultation?”

• “Will the province government hold a referendum before a final decision is made, and what is the timeline for that?”

The Town of Carstairs mayor says a public referendum on the APPS must take place before any move to implement an AAPS. 

Alberta Justice spokesman Joseph Dow told the Albertan that no decision has been made on whether to proceed with the formation of the APPS.

“We will continue studying the concepts in the report, but we’ve heard loud and clear that we need to continue speaking to people across Alberta including municipalities and Indigenous communities,” said Dow. 

“What we hear from these consultations will help us decide our next steps. We’re doing this because we have a responsibility to explore how a new policing model could improve public safety and provide more effective policing for everyone in Alberta, no matter where they live.”

Alberta Municipalities represents 275 cities, town and villages in the province, advocating for its members on issues and concerns.

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