Strategy of ‘smoke n’ mirrors’

Written by Brenda Schimke

The Kenney government will soon be out in full force to convince rural Albertans about the value of a provincial police force.

Yet, since the beginning of Kenney’s campaign to rid Alberta of RCMP officers, there’s been the glaring unanswered question. Why?

A lot of what we’ve heard to date has not been transparent or made in good faith.

First, we’re told that we’re going to save money. Yet even their financial consultant’s report calculated a financial benefit only by ignoring the 30 per cent annual federal contribution to RCMP costs. 

It’s a strategy of ‘smoke n’ mirrors’—wanting rural Albertans to see and believe something that isn’t actually the whole truth.

Second, we’re being told that by changing the colour of the uniform, all our troubles with rural property crime will simply disappear. Unfortunately, that won’t happen either. It’s not the RCMP who are solely responsible for not doing enough to reduce rural crime, it’s under-staffing and the ‘revolving door’ in our justice system.

Our problems started four decades ago when we as a society decided civil servants were a drag on the economy—their numbers too high, their remuneration too high, their worth insignificant. Unfortunately, that included Crown prosecutors. Today turnover of Crowns is extremely high and morale is at an all-time low.

Many seasoned Crowns took early retirement, while others left for the private sector, other provinces, or the federal system where their work is more apt to be appreciated.

Too many rookies are now handling files that are way above their experience levels. Crowns speak on behalf of ‘we the people’ and experience matters.

Kenney announced last year the province was committed to hire 50 new Crowns by the end of 2022-23, yet in September there were 47 of 378 Crown positions unfilled. What is a commitment to 50 new Crowns, when you can’t fill 47 current vacancies? This sound bite appears to be nothing more than a commitment to fill current vacancies but imply 50 additional positions.

The UCP’s campaign to get rid of the RCMP is more likely a less-than-honourable distraction to sway rural Albertans away from the whole truth. Rural crimes aren’t being dealt with appropriately because of a retention crisis, inability to fill vacancies, under-funding, demoralization and burnt-out Crown prosecutors. 

This crisis applies to all levels of the court system. Without a well-funded, experienced and respected stable of Crown prosecutors and support team, we live with triage and the ‘revolving door’—the most common complaint expressed by rural Albertans.

In November, there were 1,200 serious files at risk of being stayed because there are not enough Crown prosecutors. The triage process that is in place, and has been for too many years, naturally prioritizes violent crime. That means the bulk of rural property crimes and fraud never get handled by the justice system, ergo, the frustrating revolving door.

A provincial police force would be stymied by the same under-funded, under-resourced Crown prosecutor’s office and also face the inevitable ‘revolving door’ for repeat property crime criminals. 

The colour of the uniform matters not a wit.

Premier Kenney is one of the best ‘spinners’ around, yet when he’s trying to spin something that makes no financial, operational or societal sense, it leads one to conclude that Kenney has a hidden agenda. 

My guess, he and a small minority of Albertans are stealthily setting up Alberta’s governance structure to facilitate leaving Confederation. No other reason can explain Kenney’s singularly-focussed attempt to get rid of the RCMP, even as poll after poll shows more than 75 per cent of Albertans want to keep them.


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.