Federal negotiators have pulled out of contract talks with provincial officials for RCMP police services in B.C.
But Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz says she finds it “hard to believe” the RCMP will withdraw its services.
“I can’t imagine the RCMP would give up the kind of resources we have given them,” she said, like the new billion-dollar headquarters for the RCMP’s E-Division now under construction in Surrey, or the RCMP’s Pacific Region Training Centre here in Chilliwack.
RCMP Insp. Ken Burton, officer in charge of support services at the PRTC, said he doesn’t expect a “significant change” at the training centre, even if the RCMP contract is not renewed.
“There will always be a need for public safety training,” he said.
“B.C. is a significant partner in the PRTC,” he said, and training would still be needed for members of a provincial police force replacing the RCMP, and for other agencies like correctional officers, border guards, conservation officers and court sheriffs.
Much of the investment in training programs at the PRTC is “provincially driven,” he said, like the PRIME (Police Records Information Management Environment) program, an initiative the legislates all police forces in B.C. to use the same system to record crime events.
“It’s not a case of the RCMP leaving and taking funding with us,” he said, and there will “always be a need for an RCMP presence in B.C.” as Canada’s national police force.
He said plans for a new $25-$35-million firing range are “moving ahead quickly” and an announcement is expected in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re finalizing the details of that,” he said.
An expanded hotel and academic facilities are also included a 25-year plan for the PRTC site located in the Canada Education Park.
Gaetz said B.C. municipalities have “no voice” in the contract talks, even though cities pay 90 per cent of RCMP costs.
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender represents municipalities in negotiations, but has no vote.
“It’s a little bit frightening for local government not to have a voice,” Gaetz said, pointing out that one-third of Chilliwack’s budget goes to policing costs, and Surrey spends nearly half its budget on RCMP services.
She said B.C. negotiators want a number of concessions like restrictions on “unlimited” sick pay and the cost of training RCMP cadets.
The provincial government has reached a “tipping point,” she said, in the costs it bears for RCMP services in the smaller communities and rural areas.
Gaetz said policing costs are a major concern for municipalities the get only eight cents out of every tax dollar.
“Obviously, all of us want to see police in our communities, we all want to afford that, but there comes a time when we can’t,” she said.
Burton said part of the “magic” of the PRTC is that it provides training for a large number of agencies in one central location, instead of taxpayers’ dollars being spent on training facilities in several different locations.
“I can’t imagine (the PRTC) will not continue,” he said.