73 towns, villages, counties, unions call on UCP to stop provincial police effort
A public demand that Alberta stick with the RCMP has been signed by 32 towns, 22 villages, seven organizations, six counties, three summer villages, two other municipalities and The City of Wetaskiwin.
It comes just days after a United Conservative Party leadership debate, where not one of the candidates running for the premier's job said they'd stop the provincial police effort.
The letter, spearheaded by the National Police Federation, states that an Alberta force will cost taxpayers $366 million to transition and at least an additional $139 million each year.
"The dialogue around having a Provincial Police force needs to be dialled back as the people have spoken," High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer said.
"High Level does not want a municipal police force…we want the RCMP to remain," she stated, adding a call for improvements to the Mounties.
"Transitioning to a provincial police force would impose unnecessary costs and uncertainty on Albertans," Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said.
The signatories instead are calling on Alberta to fund more RCMP officers, improve social services in an effort to prevent crime and increase the capacity of the justice system by hiring more prosecutors and judges.
Alberta Municipalities and Rural Municipalities of Alberta have both previously passed resolutions critical of the UCP's provincial police efforts.
"The Government of Alberta has lost the trust of its constituents in its pursuit of an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) by not undertaking fulsome, open, and transparent consultations with all those affected," the Monday letter states.
'IT WILL COST ALBERTANS A LITTLE BIT MORE'
Former finance minister and UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews said in a debate last Friday that despite a bigger price tag, he still supports the idea.
"I believe we could improve the culture, we could see enforcement with less bureaucracy, even though it will cost Albertans a little bit more," Toews said.
Other leadership candidates Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney and Danielle Smith also spoke favourably about provincial police, although some said the UCP needs to do a better job of selling the idea to Albertans.
"I would work to bring (critics) along, cause I believe it's a successful proposition," Sawhney said.
A spokesperson for candidate Rebecca Schulz clarified Monday that she hasn't made up her mind one way or the other.
"We haven't communicated the benefits and I think we have to have that discussion," Schulz said on Friday.
Last November, Premier Jason Kenney implored rural leaders to get on board with a provincial police force, promising that any added costs would not be downloaded directly onto municipalities.
“A UCP provincial police force is really just a sneaky plan to raise Albertans’ taxes again,” NDP Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci said Monday referring to a funding model unveiled in 2019 that makes municipalities pay more for police.
“There is an election coming and should Alberta’s NDP form the next government, Albertans can trust our commitment to listen to local leaders and scrap this expensive and unnecessary plan,” NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir added.
A survey released by the "Fair Deal Panel" in 2020 suggested two-thirds of Albertans do not wish to abandon the RCMP.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Adam Lachacz and The Canadian Press