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'Keep Alberta RCMP' tour sets off in attempt to destroy UCP provincial police effort

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There's a new tour going around Alberta and the goal is simple: to stop the UCP government from replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force.

About two-dozen people gathered in Sherwood Park Thursday morning for the first stop of the "Keep Alberta RCMP" tour, which has events scheduled in 13 other communities this month.

"There seems to be no logical reason to be considering this by the provincial government," said Kevin Halwa, from National Police Federation.

The NPF represents nearly 20,000 RCMP members across Canada and has launched a website, a survey and a tour to protect their members' jobs in Alberta.

Alberta's United Conservative Party government was "engaging stakeholders" on their idea last fall, and a public survey was promised early this year.

Previous surveys done by the province and NPF concluded Albertans do not want to remove the RCMP, but in November Premier Jason Kenney implored municipal leaders to keep an open mind.

“We won't make any changes without careful consultation with municipalities,” Kenney promised at the Alberta Municipalities fall convention.

“And if we propose any model, any incremental costs would be adopted exclusively by the province and not by municipalities.”

'A BIZARRE OBSESSION FOR THIS GOVERNMENT'

A spokesperson for Justice Minister Kaycee Madu told CTV News Edmonton Thursday evening that the province was still consulting with municipalities, Indigenous governments and other groups.

The public survey on the matter is also forthcoming, Alex Puddifant said.

Meanwhile, Madu's former press secretary made his opinion clear on Twitter.

"First Nations don’t want it, and neither do Albertans. A bizarre obsession for this government," wrote Blaise Boehmer, who worked for Madu for 10 months and left the government in December.

A 2021 report for the government found an Alberta force would cost more upfront, but there may be ways to save money in the long term.

NPF argues the RCMP is a cheaper, more effective and popular option. Halwa said Albertans want to keep and improve the RCMP.

"What we're hearing time and time again (from residents) is that they're feeling that the provincial government is not listening to them on this very important topic," Halwa said.

'PROBLEMS WITH RESPONSE TIME AND CRIME'

Halwa is taking the tour to St. Albert on Friday.

The mayor there refused to take a firm position on the controversy, because she said there are still too many unanswered questions.

"There needs to be a conversation in Alberta about the quality of policing," Cathy Heron said.

"You do have problems with response time and crime (particularly in rural areas), and that does need to be addressed. But that could be addressed by the RCMP, or it could be addressed by the Alberta provincial police force."

Heron is also the president of Alberta Municipalities, which represents most Alberta cities, towns and villages.

She is concerned that Alberta is likely to lose $170 million in federal policing funds every year if the province abandons the RCMP and said, "the province has not really indicated where they will make up that shortfall."

Heron agreed with Halwa that most Alberta communities have an "overwhelming amount of support for the RCMP," but she added service improvements are necessary.

The UCP has not announced a firm timeline for when the RCMP could be replaced.

The Opposition NDP has promised to scrap the provincial police effort and keep the RCMP if they win a 2023 election.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski and The Canadian Press

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