A new contract to be signed by month end will retain the RCMP as the main policing provider in most B.C. cities for the next 20 years.

Policing deal gives cities more say over RCMP costs

New contract expected to be signed by end of March.

A renewed 20-year RCMP contract for B.C. – expected to be signed by the end of the month – will freeze pay levels for 2012.

That should limit this year’s increase in policing costs to no more than one per cent, according to Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender.

But Fassbender, who was the observer for B.C. cities in the negotiations, cautioned future increases depend on a series of factors.

One big one is whether or not a rollback of wages being challenged in court by Mounties leads to a big bill for retroactive pay, and if so, whether that must be borne by municipalities.

“Most local governments have budgeted for that retroactive, so there are no surprises,” Fassbender said, but added cities still hope Ottawa will cover that cost if it happens.

He said the most critical arrangements of the new deal are ones that should give local cities much more influence in reining in RCMP spending, which eats up a large proportion of most cities’ budgets.

“The day we sign the new contract is not the end of the process, but really the beginning,” he said. “In the past we’ve been provided bills without a lot of input.”

The main mechanism will be a new contract management committee made up of 10 local government representatives, co-chaired by Fassbender and B.C.’s assistant deputy justice minister.

That committee will oversee RCMP spending that is mandated by B.C.

For example, the PRIME information management system – which exists only in B.C. and has been one source of spiraling police costs for cities – would fall under the committee’s mandate.

Similarly, Fassbender said, if the province decides to embark on a major new initiative to fight gang crime, resulting in increased costs, the committee will have a say and be able to keep local cities informed.

Asked whether the local government committee would have an actual veto over spending decisions or merely an advisory role, he said details are still being worked out.

“There definitely is the ability to say we’re not implementing that until there’s a review, a cost analysis or whatever,” Fassbender said. “The hope is there will be enough input earlier in the process that we won’t be in a Mexican standoff on any of this.”

B.C. cities will also have representation on a separate contract management committee on federal RCMP spending issues that are common to the other provinces and territories.

The deal also includes a three-year freeze on the current $3,500 cost to cities of sending each new RCMP recruit through depot training in Regina. By 2015, a new and more accurate training cost is to be calculated, which cities believe should leave them paying less.

It’s also expected local detachments will work even more closely with local cities, Fassbender added.

“The world has changed and there is a clear recognition that we pay the majority of the costs and therefore we should have a significant opportunity to impact the future and the management of one of the most expensive parts of our municipal budgets.”

The tentative deal extending the contract was reached in late November, after turbulent negotiations in which federal officials threatened to withdraw the force from B.C. in 2014 if the province didn’t sign.

B.C., in turn, began what it called a preliminary exploration of how to launch a replacement provincial force.

The new contract includes opt-out clauses under which any city can form its own municipal force or the province could end the RCMP contract and form a provincial force.

Large cities continue to pay 90 per cent of local RCMP costs under the new deal, while smaller ones pay 70 per cent.

Full details are expected to be made public later this month.

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