Spinning the truth

Written by Brenda Schimke

Jason Kenney may be on his way out, but his agenda is still alive and well. This past week, Justice Minister and Solicitor General, Tyler Shandro, was getting free space on the op/ed pages of newspapers promoting, yet again, a provincial police force.

He, Kenney and the UCP government continue to ignore the valid concerns being expressed by rural Albertans.

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) formally opposed the move at their spring conference. President Paul McLauchlin said, “based on the arguments provided by the province so far, there’s simply no evidence that a switch to a provincial police service will be worth the cost and disruption.”

The operative words are ‘no evidence’ and Shandro’s recent op-ed provides no new evidence.

Even the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, commissioned by Kenney to support the claim of lower costs, recommended that a true feasibility study to clarify the assumptions used in their Transition Study be made. It was never done.

There’s likely a good reason. The assumptions the government provided to PwC to predict transition costs were obviously suspect as we watch a real-life example unfold in Surrey, B.C. In its second year of a four-year transition period, their costs are out of control and recruitment is, in fact, a huge issue.

In its report, PwC also wrote that the provincial government would need to enter into agreements with municipalities to share certain resources that would be lost without the RCMP. Items such as training facilities, canine units, air support and tactical squads. Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, without consultation, are being fingered by the government to fill these holes. Does anybody really believe these four municipalities have the resources to take over the whole province?

The naivety of the UCP plan is exposed every time a UCP member tries to defend it. When MLA Devin Dreeshen attended the Delburne council meeting in February, his answer to Surrey’s soaring costs, “they sure negotiated a bad deal!” His answer to recruitment—“to have a kid in Delburne want to be a cop and come back to Delburne to be a cop is good community policing.”

For those of us old enough to remember town police, Dreeshen’s comments were horrifying.

Two significant issues in policing are curtailing natural biases, and the temptation of corruption. Town cops were notorious for not giving tickets to violators who were family, friends and those in power.

I would argue, Mr. Dreeshen, the worst policeman ever, is a ‘local boy’ in his ‘local community’.

Shandro’s biggest insult to municipalities however, was this statement. “This (provincial police force) is a far better bargain than the federal model, which will require municipalities to pay a larger share of policing costs in the coming years”. Stop playing municipal leaders as dumb, Mr. Shandro.

Small towns and rural communities with populations under 5,000 previously did not pay any policing costs until the UCP government unilaterally decided to download RCMP policing costs onto them. Ten per cent of total cost was added in 2020 and by 2023, it will be 30 per cent—your government’s decision, Mr. Shandro, not the RCMP’s.

As well, municipalities were instructed by government employees to bury these costs under Protective Services and not put it on a separate budget line. A crass attempt to hide the truth from rural ratepayers.

Not one of the eight candidates running to become the next Premier have said they would reverse the decree that a provincial police force replace the RCMP. The UCP government, with or without Kenney, is relentless in installing a provincial police force regardless of what the grass roots want. It begs the question, why?

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.