Mayoral letter raises concern about provincial police funding

Following direction from the rest of council at the Oct. 8 regular meeting, Mayor Rod Frank wrote a letter on Oct. 11 to the Ministers of Justice and Municipal Affairs outlining his concerns about the Police Cost Model Review. Lindsay Morey/News Staff

Share Adjust Comment Print

Consider it to be signed, sealed, and delivered.

Following direction from the rest of council at the Oct. 8 regular meeting, Mayor Rod Frank wrote a letter to the Ministers of Justice and Municipal Affairs outlining his concerns about the Police Cost Model Review.

Introduced to municipalities during a Sept. 6 webinar with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, the model’s goal is to share the cost of frontline RCMP services across the province, including the rural municipalities where policing is covered in full by the provincial government under the existing formula. It’s based on cost-recovery.

As Strathcona County is a specialized municipality, serving 70 per cent urban and 30 per cent rural residents, it’s well aware of policing challenges and needs across the community. The Strathcona County RCMP detachment has 83 members funded by the municipality and another 14 members are funded by the province.

“Strathcona County is very concerned with the impact the proposed funding model could have on our municipality and other across the province from both a fiscal and philosophical perspective,” Frank wrote the two ministers on Oct. 11. “We understand the fiscal realities the province is facing, and as such, we understand the need to pay our own way when it comes to rural policing. Strathcona can support the idea of paying for our own rural policing — we cannot, however, support the idea of equalized assessment.”

The mayor went on to say the equalized assessment is “not a sensible solution”, which will result in some municipalities subsidizing service deliveries in other areas of the province.

“This is unfair to all Albertan taxpayers. Equalized assessment disincentives municipalities from striving for excellence, practicing fiscal responsibility and focusing on economic development. In fact, equalized assessment at the provincial level resembles the federal equalization program, which most Albertans would oppose. Equalized assessment penalizes innovation and would ultimately be a drag on a stronger Alberta economy,” Frank wrote.

Hinting to the upcoming cuts in the provincial budget on Oct. 24, the mayor agreed the county supports paying a higher percentage of the shared rural policing costs. Above all else, he stated the safety of the community is important for all county residents and for council.

“We believe that a ‘pay your own way’ model is better aligned with our shared goals, principles, including being fiscally responsible and accountable to Albertans,” he stated.

The Justice Minister requested municipalities to complete a survey or provide written submissions on the model by Oct. 15, to which Strathcona County opted to write this letter instead. Local UCP MLAs Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, Nate Glubish, Jordan Walker also received the letter.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) noted it supports the model in principle since it will generate additional revenue to address vacancies, understaffing, and other resource constraints, however, its full support is contingent on four action items. Those include;

  1. The province must invest all revenue generated by the police costing model into frontline policing resources.
  2. Prior to implementing the police costing model, the province must develop, in consultation with municipalities, a detailed plan of how policing resources will be deployed across Alberta.
  3. The deployment of policing resources must take place over an appropriate transition period (minimum of three years) and align with the phase-in of the police costing model, i.e. municipalities will not be required to pay for policing until resources have been deployed in their communities.
  4. Municipalities must have meaningful oversight of local police services so that they can assist in setting local policing priorities and be flexible and creative in deploying police resources locally.

In terms of impacts on rural crime, the AUMA stated it’s difficult to predict because it’s not known how the revenue raised by the model will be invested. A potential negative consequence could result in neighbouring municipalities that already pay for policing could experience cost avoidance.

“These municipalities may not need to request increased policing resources for their local detachments if their officers are spending less time outside their municipality,” the AUMA explained in their submission to the Justice Minister.