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County of Barrhead reeve remains open to provincial police force

Regardless of who provides policing services, reeve Doug Drozd said the county cannot afford to pay more
Doug Drozd Sept 6, 2022
County of Barrhead reeve Doug Drozd, pictured here at the Sept. 6 council meeting, said he will reiterate to Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro during a Sept. 13 engagement session with municipal leaders that the municipality cannot afford to pay more for policing

BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead reeve Doug Drozd still does not know if he supports the United Conservative Party's plan to replace the RCMP with a new provincial police force. 

But he does know the municipality cannot afford to pay more for policing after the province changed the funding model forcing small, rural municipalities to pick up more of the tab. 

Councillors, during their Sept. 6 meeting, at Drozd's request, approved his attendance at a Sept. 13 Edmonton engagement session with Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro. Attendance is limited to two elected officials. Coun. Bill Lane will be the other county representative. The funds to attend the session will come from Drozd's councillor education fund. 

The session is one of a series of seven engagement sessions Shandro will be having with municipal elected officials over a two-and-half-week span. Each session will be broken into six-hour-long meetings where Shandro will meet with up to 20 municipal leaders. 

Although Drozd said the main topic would be the government's exploration of a potential Alberta police force, Shandro invited municipal leaders to bring up any subject relating to justice and public safety. It is the second opportunity Drozd will have to speak to Shandro on the topic. The first was during a virtual meeting in late June that the minister hosted with the county and Village of Boyle councillors, in which he invited councillors to share their opinion on the province's policing plans. 

The County of Barrhead has not come up with an official position on the plan. However, Rural Municipalities of Alberta and Alberta Municipalities (formerly the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) have stated they are opposed to the move. Town of Barrhead council has also publicly stated on multiple occasions its opposition to replacing the RCMP with a provincial force. 

However, Drozd said after the meeting that he has not made up his mind. 

"My mind is still open. That is why I want to attend these engagement sessions and will be meeting with Minister Shandro, so I can find out what the other municipalities have to say and what their concerns are," he said. 

Although, Drozd said he shares concerns that other municipal leaders have voiced about potential cost increases to policing, regardless of who is providing the service. 

"We have costing to about 2025, in which we know that at that point the County of Barrhead will be paying $400,000 annually for policing," he said.  

Starting in 2020, counties and municipal districts and communities under 5,000 became responsible for paying for a portion of their policing costs, starting at 10 per cent and increasing to 30 per cent in 2023.  

"When I go in there I want to emphasize that we can't afford to pay more than that. But the model (for how policing is carried out) I'm open to listening." 

The province has stated that municipalities will not pay more for policing if they move to an Alberta police force. 

However, many municipalities are skeptical stating someone has to pay for the cost of transitioning to a police force, and they are afraid it will be local governments. 

The province released the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on what it would take to create an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) in October 2021. It noted the move would also come with a $366 million one-time cost, with the end result being more boots on the ground (the report states the APPS would have about 120 more front-line members), while, after everything is in place, being more efficient and thus cost-effective. The transition would take about six years to complete. 

The report concludes a provincial police service would cost Alberta between $734 million and $759 million annually. Under the current model, the cost of having the RCMP in Alberta is about $672 million, split between the province at $318 million, municipalities at $176 million and another $170 million federally. When the cost of the recently negotiated RCMP pay increase is factored in, the overall cost of having the RCMP in the province balloons to $742 million. The report also notes that if the province created its own police force, Alberta would also lose about $170 million of annual funding from the federal government. Currently, the national government covers 30 per cent of Alberta RCMP costs. 


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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