Many pilots have died in their shot-up aircraft, an experienced airman once told me, because of their high comfort level in the cockpit. They preferred its familiarity over an unfamiliar parachute and would rather hold on in hopes of regaining control. They invariably paid with their lives.
I remembered this when reading a press release in August from the Alberta Solicitor General announcing the signing of a 20-year deal with the federal government to retain the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Canada’s taxpayers will pony up $60 million annually to keep the red in the black.
I can understand the need for some stability in the RCMP but this deal shows an obvious level of desperation. It also begs the question of who the GWO* selected to cut the deal.
Alberta is a province of opportunity. With a population closing in on four million and enough known oil and gas reserves to fuel North America for the next 200 years, it has thrown off its image of a boom and bust region and stepped proudly into the realm of a “have” province. Why this need to suckle at Ottawa’s breast for subsidized policing?
The province’s $15 billion “Heritage Fund” grows by three billion each year, thanks to gas and oil royalties. This bounty of cash provides a sales tax free environment which is the envy of the country. Alberta has the best maintained infrastructure and the lowest unemployment rate in Canada and even gives money back to taxpayers on occasion, complete with an apology for taking it in the first place.
Despite these riches, Ottawa now picks up 30 per cent of the tab for its subsidized provincial police service. That means everyone in Canada must donate cash to Alberta for the next 20 years.
It is expected the other six provinces will scoop up similar RCMP contracts like a Boxing Day sale-a-thon. Given that only Ontario and Quebec pay the full freight for their policing costs, the natural conclusion is they will be the only ones left to pick up the tab.
Policing in Alberta has been schizophrenic for years. The confused and often muddled genesis of the Alberta Sheriffs Service has left it fragmented and looking for an identity. The decision to expand what was essentially a court security service into taking over highway patrol duties from the RCMP not only muddies the true policing costs for the province but also fragments the law enforcement function beyond any hope of cohesiveness. It is like suggesting that these duties are too menial for the Mounties and criminals never leave the scene of a major crime by car.
Getting a clearer picture of Alberta policing is further confused by the 41 municipalities that pay into the Feds to subsidize their policing costs by using RCMP members. Add a series of county law enforcement officers who relieve RCMP members of many other duties common to other provincial police officers.
If Alberta has designed a schizophrenic law enforcement structure than one could only describe a marriage with a paranoid police service as incredible. The deal comes at a time when many studies have recommended the RCMP take a long hard look at itself and make efforts to pull away from the wide array of duties it has shouldered over the past century.
Why the hurry to seal a 20-year contract with a wealthy province at bargain-basement prices? Is it a message that there is going to be no change in the way the RCMP does business, or could it be the looming picture of a new labour relations paradigm with its membership? Cost-cutting will soon be far more difficult.
Given the multitude of issues, studies and investigations still haunting the much-storied police service it might have been prudent to sign a five-year contract, giving it time to breath. Solicitor General Vic Toews insists he’s made his commitment very clear and thinks the “RCMP serves a valuable function as a provincial, municipal and federal police force.” In other words, it can still do it all and keep on ticking.
I seem to remember a few years back an Alberta originated movement coming up with the slogan “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.” I suppose the folks who thought that one up will be pleased to see the rest of Canada will be billions of dollars closer to that goal with 20 year policing deals in seven more provinces.
Things are shaping up for a western boondoggle that will make the firearms registry look like chump change. Too late to cry over spilt milk... would the next province please step forward?
*The Great Wizard of Ottawa (GWO) was first identified in previous comments on firearm prohibitions for federal wardens and border officers and heath and safety concerns for RCMP members. The public never sees or hears about this mysterious person when strange ideas come forth on government policy. The GWO has a bigger agenda to which we mere mortals are not privy.