B.C. cities under pressure to sign a new RCMP contract renewing the Mounties for another 20 years have been given a one-month deadline extension until May 31 to make up their minds.
But even that may not be enough time to answer a barrage of unanswered questions being raised by some mayors who have balked at signing.
“I suspect it may have to go far beyond that,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said of the new May 31 deadline.
He spoke after leaving a meeting of Lower Mainland mayors in Surrey Friday morning and said he continues to have deep reservations about a number of unresolved issues.
While Surrey – the biggest detachment in Canada – has already signed, many other municipalities held off after it was revealed newly approved pay hikes for Mounties go beyond what the federal government had forewarned cities about last year.
Brodie and others say the concerns are about more than the pay hikes, which give the RCMP an extra 5.25 per cent over three years.
One issue involves an interpretation document that is to accompany the actual contract and would guide how it is interpreted.
It’s not yet finished, Brodie said, and is the subject of continuing talks between Victoria and Ottawa.
“If it’s a 20-year contract you must know what you’re getting into,” Brodie said. “Unless you have the interpretation guide, I’m not sure how you can do that.”
He said he’s also concerned cities may have little real input into a promised review of the contract every five years.
Other concerns include severance pay requirements for cities and who is bearing the capital costs of the RCMP’s new E Division headquarters at Green Timbers in Surrey.
“Every which way there’s uncertainty to it,” Brodie said. “The list goes on and on.”
He stressed he takes no issue with the quality of policing Mounties provide.
“The officers in the detachments are giving good service – it’s not about that.”
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he is more comfortable after hearing Friday’s update on the contract issues.
“I personally am comfortable that the negotiations produced much of what we were asking for,” Stewart said. “I’m at this point prepared to accept the agreement as it stands.”
It promises a series of improvements, notably the creation of a contract management committee that’s to give cities much more say on spending decisions of the RCMP that affect civic budgets.
“Many of the really egregious challenges under the old contract have been solved.”
Stewart said he will give Coquitlam council as much time as it needs to make a decision.
The federal government has promised administrative savings from within the RCMP will help offset the higher-than-expected pay hikes, although details have not yet been revealed.
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was the civic observer in negotiating the new policing contract and will chair the contract management committee, said about 11 cities have signed so far and predicts more of the nearly 50 remaining local governments will join them soon.
He acknowledged there are “still some gaps in information” but said cities will have to make their decision regardless.
“The contract is what it is at the moment,” Fassbender said. “To suggest that it’s going to change – that’s not going to happen.”
He said the one-month extension was the province’s decision.
“It will be up to the provice to determine how long they are willing for this to carry on,” he added.
He said an extended delay in signing could result in holdout cities forfeiting their federal subsidy, which is 10 per cent for large cities.
Cities had previously been warned that if they did not sign by the end of April they would be effectively be terminating their RCMP service with two years notice.