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Provincial police force wouldn’t cost more: Kenney

Unclear when referendum on possibly replacing RCMP will be held
MVT stock Jason Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney said consultations on replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force will be ongoing until late winter or spring of 2022. Photo courtesy of Alberta government

An Alberta provincial police force wouldn’t cost rural municipalities any more than they are already paying for RCMP services, says Premier Jason Kenney.

During a press conference outside Bowden last week, Kenney was asked by The Albertan whether he believes a provincial force would be good for rural Alberta. He said yes.

“One of the concerns we hear from municipalities is they want to make sure that if we go to an Alberta provincial police it doesn’t cost them more and we are going to guarantee them that this model is not going to cost them one cent more,” said Kenney. “This would be a proposed model that is focused on crime prevention and addressing the social gaps that are connected to law enforcement issues. 

“The work is ongoing and we haven’t made final decisions, but you can see that I believe there would be advantages in principle to a local police force.”

Asked when Albertans might see a referendum on the Alberta provincial police force issue, he said, “No final decisions have been made. We want to take this to the next step, which is really in-depth consultations, especially with municipalities and Indigenous communities, based on the model that is being prepared by Justice and Solicitor General.

“Those consultations will happen this fall and into the winter, and then I think in late winter or spring of 2022, we will make a decision on whether to go or no go on this.

“It would take us three, maybe four years, if we decide to go in the direction to transition, because we need to give notice for potential cancellation of the service contact with Ottawa.”

The government-directed Fair Deal Panel has recommended that the province investigate the possibility of creating an Alberta force to replace the RCMP.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu is currently touring the province gathering input on the proposal. 

Critics say replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force would be a mistake.

During Friday’s press conference, Premier Kenney said he believes an Alberta provincial police force would had several benefits.

“The RCMP is a huge national complex organization with an unfocused mandate,” said Kenney. “That’s not a community policing model and as you know, we very often get a kind of revolving door of personnel. I think it would be awesome in principle to have a provincial police force where girls and boys can dream of becoming a police officer and serving in their community for the rest of their lives, in a community that they understand.”

Following Friday’s press conference, Jason Nixon, Sundre-area MLA and Minister of Environment and Parks, was asked if he supports the creation of an Alberta provincial police force. 

“We are all for anything that can provide the best policing for our communities,” Nixon told the Albertan. “We’ve had rural crime problems for the past several years. As the premier has said, ultimately it will be up to Albertans and we want to make sure Albertans have the best information in front of them so they can understand what the benefits would be to our communities going forward.

“This is about how best to manage policing in large provinces like Alberta and what is best for Albertans. We will get all the facts on the table and Albertans will make a decision.”

Dozens of rural municipalities have sent letters to Justice Minister Madu saying they prefer to see the RCMP remain the police force of choice in their respective communities.

In the letter from Mountain View County, Reeve Bruce Beattie voiced “unequivocal support” for the RCMP.

“The RCMP has made strides in improving their service to rural communities and the current commanding officer in K Division (Alberta) and our southern district commander have made themselves available to listen to issues affecting rural communities,” Beattie said.

“The least costly and most effective way to improve policing in Alberta would be to work at improving what we already have, not throwing it away and starting over with a strong likelihood of achieving the status quo at a vastly increased cost.”

The Official opposition issued a release following Friday’s press conference outside Bowden, saying the UCP government has failed to make the case for replacing the RCMP.

“Once again, Jason Kenney is talking about the benefits of axing the RCMP without providing any evidence whatsoever,” said NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir. “The UCP has yet to show Albertans any proof that this half-baked idea will lead to better policing and stronger community safety for Albertans.

“In fact, it’s this UCP government that has already cut tens of millions of dollars from police budgets across the province.”