Six Metro Vancouver cities that have not yet signed a new 20-year RCMP contract over concerns about costs have been given a one-month extension to June 30 to make a decision.
Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam so far haven’t ratified the new deal negotiated by the provincial and federal governments.
It’s the second extension given and the province has warned there won’t be any more.
“It’s not perfect, because these deals are never perfect,” Premier Christy Clark said.
Any city that doesn’t sign will get formal notice from Victoria that they must either sign or submit a written policing plan to the ministry if they don’t plan to sign.
Cities have also been warned that if they don’t sign they risk losing their federal subsidy, worth 10 per cent of their policing bills.
“Ultimately it’s their decision,” Clark said. “If they want to have higher policing costs in their communities, because they don’t want to sign and they want to go to their own independent police force, that is their choice and they will be held accountable for that. I don’t think it’s the best decision.”
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, the municipal observer in the negotiations that led to the contract, suggested cities that still have concerns could sign and either immediately serve two years notice they will withdraw and use a municipal police force, or perhaps research the options first and then give withdrawal notice.
Switching to a municipal force, partnering with the Vancouver Police or forming a Metro regional force would be no panacea to the concerns, he predicted.
“One of the realities they’re going to face is they’re immediately going into a unionized environment, meaning they’ll be paying 100 per cent plus. To suggest they’re going to get lower costs would be a stretch.”
Nor, he said, is it certain they would have more control, particularly if multiple cities partner together.
“I’m not so sure the grass is as green on the other side as they may think it is.”
Several mayors have cited the capital and operating cost of the new $1.2 billion RCMP E Division headquarters being built at Green Timbers in Surrey as a major concern.
Fassbender said the flow of costs related to the new headquarters are a separate negotiation, not directly related to the new contract.
“The province has the option of not moving into Green Timbers if they can’t negotiate a lease rate for the provincial officers going in there that’s acceptable,” he said.
“The province is pretty adamant that they are not going to pay an exorbitant rate for a facility where they didn’t have any control over the size and scope.”
North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton this week said cities appear to have very limited control over costs and decisions through a new contract management committee, contradicting Fassbender’s claims it will bring major reform.
Fassbender maintains the changes are significant and cities will see a big difference, adding it is not an issue in other provinces.
Other issues include the 5.25 per cent pay increase for Mounties over three years that was more than cities had previously expected.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said Fassbender is a huge supporter of the RCMP and provincial government who failed to get B.C. cities a good deal.
“It’s no surprise we came out without any advances in this agreement whatsoever.”
He said Burnaby will take the time it needs to consider its policing options.
– with files from Tom Fletcher