Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said she and other provincial leaders are in the dark about the federal government’s plans for the future of the RCMP, despite the fact that they rely on Mounties to keep parts of their provinces safe.
“We’re very concerned because there is no indication what the federal government’s plan is moving forward,” Stefanson, chair of the Council of the Federation, said Wednesday as the premiers wrapped up three days of meetings in Winnipeg.
Like many provinces, Manitoba uses the Mounties as a provincial police force through a contract policing arrangement. Provinces and territories pay 70 per cent of RCMP costs and the federal government pays the rest.
The current contracts are up for renewal in 2032. Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has launched a review of how that arrangement is working.
“How it looks going forward will very much be a function of the ongoing conversations that we’re having with provinces, territories and municipalities,” Mendicino told CBC News back in May.
But Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said there haven’t been open discussions yet.
“They do seem to send a mixed message about whether they’re committed to maintaining contract policing,” she told reporters Wednesday.
“It’s left some provinces like ours, where we are expanding our sheriffs in anticipation that they may not want to continue expanding the service.”
The recent report into the worst mass shooting in Canadian history made sweeping calls to reform the RCMP and to review the RCMP’s role in community policing.
Some cities like Surrey, B.C. are already debating whether the RCMP is worth keeping. Grande Prairie, Alta. is also thinking about establishing its own municipal police service.
Alberta’s UCP government has floated the idea of creating its own provincial police force in the past. It’s currently encouraging cities, towns, villages, First Nations and Métis settlements to explore the idea of replacing contracted RCMP services with a local or regional police agencies. To that end, the province is offering grants of up to $30,000 to launch independent studies into local policing options.
Provinces grappling with RCMP vacancies
B.C. Premier David Eby said the premiers also discussed the large number of RCMP vacancies across the country.
“We have officers that have to work extended shifts that are increasingly strained and stressed and then going off on leave, making the problem worse,” he said.
“We don’t see a clear path from the federal government about filling those vacancies.”
That almost looks as if the force is being wound down just through attrition.– Alberta Premier Danielle Smith
The RCMP has seen a drop in the number of applicants in recent years, raising concerns about its ability to properly police.
The force’s independent advisory board recently wrote a report warning that if the RCMP doesn’t attract more cadets, it “will be even more challenged to meet its service delivery commitments under the provincial, territorial and municipal police service agreements.”
“I was surprised to hear how significant they are in some of the other provinces. That almost looks as if the force is being wound down just through attrition,” said Smith.
“If that’s not the intention then they should be fairly clear about what it is. Because if it is their intention, then the provinces who do rely on RCMP have to develop other services, have to do more training … have to do more recruitment. And that takes time to do all of that.”
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the council’s conversations about the RCMP are happening against a backdrop of increased crime.
“It becomes even more critical to get clarity on not only the future of the RCMP but on options that we collectively could have in each province,” he said.
“So the timing is important to get a decision.”
The premiers also ended their annual conference by calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet them to discuss infrastructure.
Stefanson said the provinces are united in their goal of advancing infrastructure projects in communities and between jurisdictions, including national economic trade corridors.
“That’s going to be absolutely critical moving forward, making sure that we can get our goods to markets,” she said.