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White Rock to keep RCMP

White Rock city manager Dan Bottrill - File photo
White Rock city manager Dan Bottrill
— image credit: File photo

The City of White Rock has signed off on a new 20-year contract with the RCMP.

Council gave unanimous support to the Municipal Police Unit Agreement at its May 28 meeting, securing the Mounties for local police service through March 31, 2032.

The vote came just three days ahead of an end-of-May deadline to ratify the agreement that was reached earlier this spring – a deadline that has since been extended, again, to give a number of Metro Vancouver cities that have not signed one more month to make a decision.

Six municipalities – Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam – have not ratified the deal, citing too many unresolved questions.

The extension is the second one that's been given, and the province has warned there won't be any more.

"It's not perfect, because these deals are never perfect," Premier Christy Clark said.

Any city that doesn't sign will get formal notice from Victoria that they must either sign or submit a written policing plan to the ministry if they don't plan to sign.

Cities have also been warned that if they don't sign they risk losing their federal subsidy, worth 10 per cent of their policing bills.

"Ultimately, it's their decision," Clark said. "If they want to have higher policing costs in their communities, because they don't want to sign and they want to go to their own independent police force, that is their choice and they will be held accountable for that. I don't think it's the best decision."

White Rock city manager Dan Bottrill, in recommending council approve the agreement, said he feels concerns raised by the hold-out cities – from accountability for spending, to costs associated with a pay increase for the officers – have been addressed.

"Some municipalities did not include a lot of the costs that were indicated," Bottrill said, referring to city budgets.

White Rock's police budget is currently $4.8 million, of which $3.7 million is associated with RCMP costs.

Surrey, which pays about $101 million annually for its RCMP, voted in April to sign the deal.

Under the new contract, municipalities will continue to pay for 90 per cent of policing costs, with the federal government paying 10 per cent. With integrated forces, such as the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, the costs will be 70 per cent for municipalities, down from 90. In White Rock, that amounts to annual savings of about $80,000.

The deal also gives cities the ability to opt out of the contract – as 12 in B.C. have done – with 25 months' notice, as well as a say in who their top cop will be.

Bottrill noted it remains unclear what impact things such as the new $1.2 billion RCMP headquarters building in Surrey and the possibility of unionization could have on future policing costs.

At the same time, the contract requires that cities receive early notice of any changes or cost implications coming forward.

Multi-year financial plans from the detachment commander should also help, Bottrill said.

While Coun. Helen Fathers questioned what guarantees cities have "against a contract that has the ability to reach, really, what it wants" in terms of costs, Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted a change that takes into account the different financial cycles between the RCMP and the city is significant.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond and Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender have argued the new contract will make the RCMP much more accountable to cities for their spending than in the past.

Fassbender, the municipal observer in the negotiations that led to the contract, suggested those who still have concerns could sign and either immediately serve two years notice they will withdraw and use a municipal police force, or perhaps research the options first and then give withdrawal notice.

- with files from Jeff Nagel

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