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Frustration as municipalities left to pick up tab for RCMP pay increase negotiated by Ottawa


Alberta municipalities are upset after they were left to cover the retroactive pay raise RCMP officers received following negotiations they were not involved in.

Last year, Mounties signed a new collective agreement that included a pay raise of 1.75 per cent for each year from 2017 to 2023.

While both the mayors of St. Albert and Red Deer are pleased officers are receiving better compensation, they wish the federal government would help shoulder some of the costs.

"We do not begrudge or think it was an unfair settlement," said Cathy Heron, St. Albert mayor. "The RCMP were severely underpaid compared to municipal forces in Alberta, which probably led to retention and attraction issues."

"The problem that we have with the settlement is it was negotiated with our money, with taxpayer and St. Albert money, without St. Albert or anyone representing municipalities at the table."

In total, the RCMP pay bump will cost Alberta municipalities approximately $140 million. Of that, the province will be on the hook for $80 million, while $60 million is covered directly by individual cities or counties with direct police service agreements.

St. Albert will have to pay an extra $3 million to cover the RCMP pay adjustment.

"When we heard that contract negotiations had started, we got some initial estimates thinking around 2.5 per cent increase for the RCMP," Heron explained. "Luckily, we were conservative in our budgeting. We have the full retro pay set aside and ready to go."

Ken Johnston, Red Deer mayor, said the city faces a $6.3 million bill. The city intends to use reserve funds to cover the cost.

"We can absorb this entire bill with no impact on our tax base, but what that does, of course, to state the very obvious is it takes $6 million out of our community," Johnston said. "A $6 million hit to our community at this point in time is terrible."

Not every Canadian municipality has available reserve funds or planned ahead by setting money aside for this new expense, said Scott Pearce, Federation of Canadian Municipalities acting president.

"That forces us as municipalities to raise taxes or lower services because we can't run a deficit," Pearce said.

When collective bargaining began, Ottawa signalled it would potentially help municipalities in a cost-sharing agreement, Pearce said. But on budget day last week, a letter from the federal government revealed there would be no support.

"The federal government is negotiating with our wallets," Pearce said.

According to Pearce, for every Canadian tax dollar paid, 45 cents goes to Ottawa, 44 cents goes to the provincial government and only 10 cents are given to a person's local municipality.

"And we own 60 per cent of Canada's infrastructure," he added. "The federal government is negotiating with our wallet."

"It's just another hit in the long line of hits that municipalities seem to be taking right now," Heron echoed.

Public Safety Canada declined a request for an interview.

Each municipality has two years to pay for the pay increase. For Johnston, that means two years of advocacy to the federal government to get a form of cost-sharing in place.

"That is the most disappointing side of this," Johnston said. "It's 100 per cent of the cost over to you… That's terribly one-sided."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nav Sangha Top Stories

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