The federal government has indicated in the federal budget they are not ready to absorb retroactive RCMP costs and are leaving Canadian municipalities to cover them.
According to a media release, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities says the 2023 budget confirmed communities dependent on RCMP services will have to incorporate the costs into their municipal budgets despite the government not allowing the organization to be at the negotiating table.
FCM president Taneen Rudyk said in the release this burdens already strained municipalities with financial constraints and not allowing municipalities to have representation at the negotiating table is absurd.
“The federal government’s refusal to absorb these costs, which is negotiated with municipal money and not their input, is not acceptable,” she said. “Municipal councils will be forced to make incredibly tough decisions, such as what services to cut or passing the bill along to residents, at a time when Canadian concerns about local safety and the cost of living are increasing.”
The release says municipalities are paying a growing share for policing across the country, but they have limited revenue to cover costs associated with retroactive pay for police officers going back to 2017.
Communities across the country will face anywhere between $750,000 to $5.7 million in retroactive costs, but with limited population and resources. Rudyk says it is even more imperative municipalities be represented at any negotiations involving their budget.
“This situation cannot occur again,” she says. “Going forward, municipalities must be properly consulted on issues relating to policing given the municipal responsibility to keep our communities safe.”
FCM second vice-president and Gold Chester Nova Scotia deputy mayor Jeff Stewart says he agrees with Rudyk’s assessment and putting the burden on municipalities pushes them into debt and is not allowed at the municipal level.
“Municipalities are not allowed to run deficits so where do we get this money?” he asks. “The collective agreement which was negotiated we never had a part in. The government negotiated something without public input, but we are stuck holding the bill.”
Stewart says the government is allowing municipalities to be on a repayment schedule but councils should not have been put in this position in the first place.
“My understanding is municipalities can pay this back, interest free, over two years,” he says. “The main issue we are trying to solve is the fact we were never consulted, nor were we allowed to offer municipal input.”
He says even though the government has made their decision he hopes further discussions will be allowed for them to alleviate some of the financial burden they have bestowed on municipalities.
“Our doors are open to cooperation and discussion on this file,” he says. “We will be advocating to have more discussion with the federal government.
“We are more than willing to work with all levels of government as partners. We all want to see a better Canada.”
According to examples provided in the release, the City of Moncton will have to pay $5.7 million in retroactive costs, the City of Vernon $3.4 million, Portage la Prairie, Alta. $800,000, and Hinton, Alta. $750,000.
– Files from Justin Baumgardner, My Nelson Now