Oct 30 2013
B.C. municipalities and the provincial government are balking at having to potentially pay substantial increases in policing costs related to the new $1-billion RCMP E-Division headquarters in Surrey.
According to preliminary estimates in the RCMP’s Fiscal Plan for 2013-14, municipalities could pay next year $1,200 more per regular member and $20,000 per integrated team member as a result of the new Green Timbers headquarters.
The proposed increases, which are still being negotiated between the federal and provincial governments and haven’t been finalized, are intended to cover the administrative costs at the new 6,162 square-metre building, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said.
The costs would be proportionally based on the size of each municipality.
For instance Burnaby, with the second largest RCMP detachment, could see an estimated increase of $500,000, he said, while Surrey would likely see more than twice that amount.
“We’ve got some information on the overall costs but nothing has been settled,” Corrigan said. “This is a big increase for any of our police detachments. We’re all really concerned.”
Policing is the single largest cost to municipalities in B.C., which is home to 9,500 RCMP officers and civilian employees — more than any other province. Only 11 municipalities, including Vancouver, New Westminster, West Vancouver and Port Moody, have their own police forces.
The latest news comes a year after B.C. municipalities signed a controversial 20-year policing agreement, which promised elected officials they would have more say on controlling policing costs.
The funding formula hasn’t changed, with cities sharing the costs with the federal government: those larger than 15,000 pay 90 per cent of policing costs, while smaller cities pay 70 per cent, and the federal government picks up the rest.
But since the contract was signed last year, municipalities maintain the federal government has continued to slap them with more unexpected costs, including higher-than-expected pay raises and changes to pension contributions and severance pay, along with the Green Timbers headquarters.
The Surrey Green Timbers site, which opened earlier this year, will house up to 2,700 employees and bring together about 25 E-Division operational units.
“It’s this kind of thing that makes people crazy,” Corrigan said.
He also questioned why the former Heather Street E-Division headquarters wasn’t used to pay down the capital costs. Neither the federal government nor the RCMP would comment Wednesday.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore maintains that while local governments are happy with their local officers, and it makes sense to have E-Division and integrated teams under one roof, municipalities should have been consulted in the decision to build Surrey Green Timbers in a public-private partnership, rather than being hit with massive increases.
“It’s not about policing on the streets,” he said. “It’s about the governance of it.”
Both Port Coquitlam and Richmond, which joined Burnaby and North Vancouver in conducting feasibility studies to determine if they should keep the RCMP, also argue that they are already paying far more than their share for integrated policing teams.
Moore maintains Port Coquitlam is ranked on the lower end of the value of services it receives from the five specialized integrated teams, paying out $996,870 and receiving just $317,725 in services. In comparison, Surrey paid out $9.3 million while it received $12 million in services.
Municipalities can trigger a two-year opt-out clause to start their own police department, invite another municipal force to take over, or work with other cities to create a regional force.
B.C. Attorney General and Justice Minister Suzanne Anton was unavailable for an interview Wednesday but said in an email that the province is also opposed to the proposed costs.
“Surrey Green Timbers is a federal asset. We don’t support the costs the federal government is suggesting to municipalities and we will not pay for space we don’t require,” she said.
“Our interests remain in ensuring that the Province and municipalities pay a fair share, but no more, for the building and frankly we expect the federal government to be reasonable with their partners. Discussions with the federal government on Green Timbers will continue on that basis.”