Manitoba RCMP services: Who pays and who doesn’t?
October 11, 2023 By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Oct. 11, 2023, Niverville, Man. – You don’t have to live in a town long before appreciating the importance of effective law enforcement. The primary function of any police service is to provide a sense of safety to all through crime prevention, investigation, and emergency response.
In Manitoba, every community or municipality has the right to police protections, but they don’t pay equally for those public services.
It might surprise many to know that rural municipalities such as Ritchot pay nothing for their RCMP services. Conversely, urban municipalities like Niverville have no choice but to dish out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to the most recent census, the RM of Ritchot has approximately 3,500 more residents than the town of Niverville. Ritchot’s residents are also spread out over a much larger area, giving the RCMP a much greater distance to cover.
Both Niverville and Ritchot fall under the jurisdiction of the St. Pierre-Jolys RCMP detachment.
In Manitoba, the Police Services Act establishes how the costs associated with RCMP services are disbursed.
Rural and remote municipalities are not obligated to pay municipal taxes toward RCMP services. They may, however, supplement their existing RCMP services with private policing if they desire, at their own cost.
The RM of Ritchot budgeted $105,000 into their bylaw compliance and enforcement budget in 2023. This enables the RM to step up their law enforcement presence by hiring the services of the Commissionaires, a private security company.
An urban municipality falls under the same zero-cost rule as a rural municipality—but only until they reach a population of 750. At that point, they must pay a fee for RCMP services. The fee rises substantially when their population surpasses 5,000.
According to Niverville CAO Eric King, public police services in 2022 cost Niverville just over $200,000. As of April 1, 2023, those same services more than tripled in cost to almost $668,000.
“All urban municipalities that went over 5,000 residents from the last census would have lost their provincial police service agreement and would be obligated to sign with Public Safety Canada,” says King.
This is true even if a community already has an RCMP detachment of its own.
Alternatively, the Act states that an urban municipality that reaches 750 or more residents can choose to forego RCMP services altogether and instead establish its own police service or enter into a collaborative agreement with a neighbouring municipality to share police services.
Importantly, it should be noted that whatever direction an urban municipality like Niverville decides to go, the provincial government provides a policing grant to help offset those costs.
This grant can be applied towards anything the local council deems necessary to maintain and enhance community safety.
Niverville’s 2023 policing grant came to $855,000, surpassing their direct RCMP costs.
King says that the additional monies from the grant are helpful in terms of paying down expenses associated with the $1 million RCMP detachment currently being built in Niverville.
In previous years, he adds, the grant has provided for the installation of surveillance cameras in parts of town that have been particularly vulnerable to vandalism.
But as Niverville’s security needs grow alongside its population, King says that the grant money likely won’t keep up.
For example, Steinbach spent $2.7 million in policing costs in 2019 while the offset grant only came to about $1.8 million. Taxpayers were on the hook for the difference.
According to King, Niverville’s new RCMP detachment, soon to be located in the town administrative building, is only months from completion.
The decision to build the detachment came after council commissioned a study to review the pros and cons of operating an RCMP office versus establishing a private police force.
“Cost is the main reason we went this route, but also access to additional services that are tied to the RCMP and their national network, such as drug investigation and the database of information they have on a variety of topics,” says Mayor Dyck.
According to RCMP Sergeant Paul Manaigre, one corporal and three constables have been assigned to the Niverville detachment. They currently work out of the St. Pierre-Jolys office until the Niverville office opens. They have been working on files related to Niverville since April 1.
Once stationed in Niverville, the staff will continue to take their direction from the staff sergeant in St. Pierre-Jolys.
Manaigre anticipates the addition of a sergeant to the St. Pierre-Jolys staff in the near future to help with operations between the two detachments.
RCMP officers eventually working from the Niverville office may or may not be bilingual.
“St. Pierre is a bilingual detachment and there were officers there that weren’t bilingual,” says Manaigre. “So those ones got moved directly to the Niverville positions to satisfy the language requirements in St. Pierre.”
He adds that St. Pierre-Jolys is the only detachment in Manitoba that has a requirement for fully bilingual staff. He believes it was a requirement laid out by the community years ago when the detachment was first established.
Manaigre is unsure whether any of the four officers currently assigned to Niverville live in the town, but he’s confident that at least some of them will choose to do so.
“Niverville has been quite the draw,” says Manaigre. “Once the office opens up, I’m assuming next year some time, then you’ll see more police presence in the community.”
Even so, it’s necessary to be reminded that the existence of a local detachment and the housing of RCMP officers does not mean that Niverville has exclusive access to these police services. According to federal law, they have a mandate to respond to calls wherever they may take them within the larger jurisdiction of the St. Pierre-Jolys detachment.
– The Niverville Citizen
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