It all sounds eerily familiar

Written by Brenda Schimke

The premier, emboldened by his recent lovefest with party faithful at UCP fall policy convention in Calgary, is now turning his attention to getting support to dump the RCMP.

The province will be holding sessions for three months in early 2022 to convince rural municipal leaders to support this move even though poll after poll suggests the vast majority of Albertans don’t want to replace the RCMP.

The financial viability of a provincial police force was essentially disproven when their financial consultant didn’t include the fed’s 30 per cent contribution when doing their comparative cost/benefit analysis. A rookie mistake or intentional, we’ll never know.

In a recent letter to rural municipalities, Solicitor General Kaycee Madu wrote that the Kenney proposal ‘will increase the number of front-line police officers and civilian specialists serving our communities and provide better response time’.

That sounds eerily familiar to the promise made when the province unilaterally centralized ambulance services. Yet today, municipal leaders argue response times are worse than ever.

The only way to save money in policing is to have either fewer officers or to pay them less. Since we’re promised more, then less pay is the only way to reach less overall policing costs. 

That comes with its own unique problems—specifically recruitment, retention and quality. Who would choose to police in rural Alberta for less pay, other than those who couldn’t make the grade with the RCMP or city police forces in Calgary or Edmonton?

The question for rural Albertans is how Premier Kenney intends to deliver cheaper policing costs when the number one budget item is boots on the ground?

Kenney is prepared to give up the 30 per cent contribution by the feds for policing, and he’s in the process of downloading that 30 per cent to the municipalities, so where are these supposed savings for rural municipalities or Alberta taxpayers?

It all sounds eerily familiar. Remember Kenney’s focus to slash health care costs by unilaterally cutting doctor’s remuneration and nurses’ salaries. The result has been an unprecedented level of early retirements, recruitment and retention problems, and an acute shortage of both.

At the rural municipalities fall convention, Kenney was using his well-honed spin to convince delegates of the wisdom of provincial rural policing. “If we (the province) propose any model, any incremental costs would be adopted exclusively by the province and not by municipalities”. 

Notice the carefully crafted word ‘incremental’. That waffle word could come back to bite municipal budgets as Kenney controls both the purse and the interpretation of what constitutes incremental costs.

Kenney also said, “We won’t make any changes without careful consultation with municipalities because it affects you too much.” 

I’m surprised rural municipal leaders didn’t fall off their chairs with that whopper. One thing we all know, Kenney doesn’t consult, he dictates.

His non-consultative approach with rural municipalities since elected has been staggering. Downloading policing costs, consolidating emergency medical services, municipal tax forgiveness scheme for oil and gas companies with no offsetting compensation for municipalities (a $245M hit), cuts to infrastructure and MSI funding, cuts to rural municipality firefighter training, library funding, hazardous waste disposal and local parks and community halls. 

All announcements without prior consultation.

Flogging a provincial police force is a complete waste of time and resources. If the UCP really cared about rural Alberta, as they like to say, they would be actively consulting and listening to duly elected rural representatives. 

And if they were, they would know that the priorities in rural Alberta are broadband, disaster mitigation and recovery, ageing infrastructure, rural ambulance services and predictable funding, not a provincial policy force.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.