EDITORIAL: Back to bargaining

The shape of policing in B.C. is in much doubt, following revelations that the federal government and B.C. government are at odds over the next RCMP contract.

The shape of policing in B.C. is in much doubt, following revelations that the federal government and B.C. government are at odds over the next RCMP contract.

While the federal government apparently has set a Nov. 30 deadline for the province to sign a 20-year contract, Heritage Minister James Moore was downplaying that deadline last Friday.

Provincial Solicitor General Shirley Bond revealed the deadlock when she spoke to municipal officials at their annual convention last week.

Cooler heads need to prevail. The RCMP need B.C. just as much as B.C. needs the RCMP. There are 6,000 Mounties working here – the most of any Canadian province.

B.C. is right to insist on greater accountability for the RCMP.  While a civilian oversight agency is being set up, the RCMP themselves must be more accountable to the province and local governments.

With the exception of cities such as Abbotsford, which have their own police forces, municipalities also have grave concerns about budget implications. There is a good chance that the RCMP will become unionized, and that employee costs will rise sharply.

The federal government, which has the most tax authority in the country,  should be willing to accept a one or two per cent annual cap on additional costs to be borne by the province and municipalties, and absorb anything above that figure.

It has far more ability to absorb those costs than local governments, which are dependent on property tax. Such a clause would also prompt Ottawa to be much more rigourous in managing RCMP expenditures.

The two sides need to get back to the table and bargain in good faith. At the same time, the province and municipalities need to have a plan B fully in place.

– Black Press