A group of Grande Prairie residents is gathering signatures for a petition to create a plebiscite on the Grande Prairie Municipal Police Service.

City council voted to create a municipal police service on March 6, a move that will see the RCMP contract policing phased out of the city over five years. 

The Peace Country Progressive Alliance (PCPA) voiced its concerns with the decision at the March 6 city council meeting.

“It was clear that they (city council) weren’t going to be listening to anybody there,” said Justin Sorgaard, a founder of the PCPA. 

The March 6 city council meeting had six delegations opposing the transition, including the National Police Federation (NPF), residents, former RCMP members and a former provincial judge. 

Dustin Archibald spoke on behalf of the PCPA at the March 6 meeting, urging city council to give residents more time to review the transition plan. 

The city released the Police Transition Report (PTR) on February 21, less than two weeks before the decision on March 6. The report included public engagement with approximately 60 stakeholders, an online survey with 758 responses and two open houses with 88 attendees.

Sorgaard says the public engagement was not adequate, and the concerns of residents at the meeting were not heard by city council.

He said the PCPA voiced its same concerns at the March 6 meeting, but he said council indicated it was the expert on the subject.

“The city has put thousands of hours into looking into this, but they have willfully failed in communicating their findings to us as a whole.”

The PCPA is looking for at least 6,515 signatures from City of Grande Prairie residents eligible to vote.

If successful, it will push the city for a public vote on whether to continue with the police transition plan. 

“It’s literally just a public vote and similar to the Daylight Savings referendum in the last election,” said Sogaard. 

PCPA is hosting signing events for the petition and volunteers are collecting signatures by going door-to-door in the city.

PCPA said it is following the Municipal Government Act (MGA) guidelines for petitions to ensure that the city accepts it. 

The MGA says at least 10 per cent of electors’ signatures are needed for the petition to be valid. 

PCPA’s first signing event was Tuesday (April 11); Sorgaard says they have received just under 500 signatures after the first signing event.

PCPA will host additional signing events on April 21, April 26, and May 3. 

For more information, go to facebook.com/PeaceCountryProgressiveAlliance.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 20, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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