Province cancels funding for Fort Macleod police training college
Published Wednesday, August 29, 2012 1:55PM MDT Last Updated Wednesday, August 29, 2012 6:30PM MDT
The province is calling it a difficult decision but announced Wednesday that it has cancelled funding for a $122 million police training college in southern Alberta.
The province announced Wednesday it is cancelling the Alberta Public Safety and Law Enforcement Training Centre in Fort Macleod, where construction was already underway for the facility.
“I don’t think furious would even begin to describe what is going through me,” said Fort Macleod Mayor Shawn Patience.
Police agencies across Alberta were asked to provide feedback on their expected use of the ort Macleod facility after concerns about its use were raised.
As a result of that feedback, the province says the stand-alone facility would not be utilized to a point that it would be “financially viable.”
“The communication I received and the recent discussions I’ve had raised some serious concerns over whether or not this college is required for policing,” said Jonathan Denis, minister of justice and solicitor general.
“Instead of looking at concerns of a specific area, we have to look at concerns of all taxpayers and this is a big price tag for something that is not required.”
The province says police indicated larger police forces were confident in their existing training facilities.
Standardized training for law enforcement agencies across Alberta will continue to be developed and implemented.
The Solicitor General’s website stated one year ago that the “$122 million training centre will play a critical role in ensuring consistent, state-of-the-art recruit training and ongoing professional development for law enforcement, corrections and public security personnel in Alberta.”
But Edmonton and Calgary police services as well as the RCMP agree the centre wasn’t needed.
“We do have our own facility just come online to deal with the training issues,” said Deputy Chief Brian Simpson with the EPS.
“What we have right now is working well for the Edmonton Police Service.”
But the small community of Fort Macleod has been banking on the economic boom the facility would have brought in, training more than 1,300 police and peace officers a year.
Fort Macleod was selected as the home for the new police training centre back in 2006 but construction on the building had been stalled during the recession.
Bird Design Build Construction Company had been awarded the construction contract.
Design photos for the building had been released earlier this year showing proposed classrooms and indoor simulations along with combat and advanced driving skills training facilities.
Fort Macleod has spent more than $3.5 million running service lines to the area.
On Wednesday, critics said the cancellation of the training centre was all about the politics.
The Alberta Liberals said the project was a “go-ahead until residents of the southern Alberta riding opted to elect a Wildrose representative.”
The Alberta NDP said the decision “smacks of political gamesmanship.”
“This government appears to be throwing rural southern Alberta under the bus, and we have to assume that they’re doing so because southern Alberta almost threw them under a bus,” NDP Justice Solicitor-General critic Rachel Notley said in a release.
The Wildrose said Fort Macleod is “paying the price for the PC government’s ongoing fiscal incompetence and mismanagement.”
The Solicitor General is not aware of any penalties or lawsuits around the cancellation of the contract but Fort Macleod’s mayor doesn’t rule it out.
“All I’m prepared to say is this is not the last you are going to hear from me or my community,” Patience said.
With files from Kevin Armstrong