Alberta spending $286M on nearly 300 new Mounties to combat rural crime

The Alberta government is adding 300 more police officers and 200 support staff to combat rural crime.

The Provincial Police Service Agreement (PPSA) doesn’t come cheap, though, as the province is spending $286 million over five years to implement it, with municipalities picking up part of the tab.

Up to now, communities in Alberta with a population of 5,000 or fewer have had their policing costs covered by the province.

Moving forward, small and rural communities, with some exceptions, will pay a portion of their frontline policing costs starting with 10 per cent in 2020, and rising to 30 per cent by 2023.

The province says overall policing costs for each community will be determined by municipal tax base and population, with some communities eligible for subsidies.

The end result will see the number of RCMP officers in rural Alberta go from around 1,600 to around 1,900.

“We want to ensure we fund law enforcement in an equitable and sustainable way that will ensure we have more police in our communities,” Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General says in a release. “With this new police funding model, we are making the single largest investment in rural policing since the March West and delivering on our promise to enhance public safety.”

“The Government of Alberta has made an unprecedented investment in their police service, and we are ready to deliver on that commitment,” Curtis Zablocki, Deputy Commissioner, RCMP. “The funding model announced will allow the Alberta RCMP to put additional resources where they are needed most immediately – on the frontline in your detachments, protecting your backyards and your farmyards, pushing back crime in a sophisticated and focused manner.”

The City of Red Deer for several years has advocated for the phasing in of a police funding model in Alberta that is more “fair and balanced” for all communities.

The province also announced the creation of the Alberta Police Advisory Board which it says will ensure policing is in line with the priorities of those it is protecting.

“We’re pleased to see action on this critical priority by the provincial government, as safe and healthy municipalities build strong communities and a stronger Alberta,” says AUMA President Barry Morishita. “Further consultation is critical to supporting local governments with the policing resources they need, and we look forward to actively contributing to the Alberta Police Advisory Board.”

“Rural crime has been an ongoing issue in Alberta in recent years, and rural municipalities recognize they need to share in the costs of the solutions to support safer communities,” added Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta.

The NDP Opposition, however, is calling Wednesday’s announcement a historic tax grab.

“The UCP is not putting a single dollar into this investment. Instead, they’re downloading $200 million dollars to the municipalities of this province, municipalities who are already looking at cuts,” says Kathleen Ganley, NDP Justice Critic. “Alberta’s NDP Caucus supports adding police. What we don’t support is massive hikes to property taxes for Albertans already struggling because the UCP hasn’t created jobs or spurred economic growth.”

(With file from Government of Alberta, NDP Opposition media releases)