The UCP’s initiative to start a provincial police force that would replace the RCMP in certain rural locations will continue to undergo review. Either way, Medicine Hat and Redcliff will not be greatly affected by this action.
“I’m glad that they’re taking a break on it,” says Redcliff Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick. “I think leveller heads have to look at it, not just this urge to break away.”
Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Justin Wright says the federal government alluded to exiting the municipal law enforcement avenue and transitioning to an investigatory body. He says it created a necessity for the province to work with municipalities in exploring new options.
“It would be incredibly negligent for us to not explore police options,” says MLA Justin Wright.
The effect that this deferment will have is not expected to change much in the current system.
“It really doesn’t affect us a lot,” says Kilpatrick as he laid out the history of police in Redcliff. “We would pay whatever bill they gave us.”
Redcliff is in a unique situation when compared to most communities, he says. Currently, Redcliff is in contract with the RCMP, and about $1.6 million is paid yearly in policing. Redcliff and Medicine Hat have a history of paying for their own police force as well as for that of the surrounding neighbourhood. Now everyone pays a portion.
“Municipalities have got to make a decision that’s ultimately best for them,” says Wright. He says the federal government is also looking to change the role of the RCMP across the country, it will be important for the municipalities to have options that will allow them to ensure they will have the chance to find the best option for their jurisdictions.
The province has not before come in to offer to pay for places like Redcliff but they have subsidized other communities, according to Kilpatrick.
At this point there is no telling what would have happened had the province gone through with this plan of bringing in provincial police where new contracts would have had to have been signed.
“I have no idea what that would have looked like,” says Kilpatrick. “That is just a pie-in-the-sky guess.”
Kilpatrick mentions how it could have ended up costing more than what was already in place based on a study.
Wright cites how Grand Prairie has moved from RCMP to their own municipal police force.
“They found that the cost associated with the cost increase and the service decrease, (so) they transitioned,” explains Wright.
The current system can be planned for and, in contrast, the report about the provincial policing did not come out with concrete numbers.
“It will probably generate new life sometime down the road,” says Kilpatrick on how it is important to question if the UCP is doing this merely to distance themselves further from the federal government or if it indeed is in the best interest of the province.
“We are still committed to making sure that we are providing every policing option to betterment of our province and we to make sure we are working with municipalities community stakeholders, law enforcement agencies and ultimately Albertans on how to provide community safety,” says Wright. “They can choose what’s best for their situation, their communities and their taxpayers.”
By FERNANDO MORENO-PRADO, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Aug 04, 2023