YORKTON - One thing missing in the recent federal government was financial help for municipalities facing huge costs associated with back pay for RCMP officers.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) recently responded to what it sees as the federal government’s disappointing decision to pass unbudgeted and unaccounted for RCMP costs on to municipalities.
Despite months of municipal advocacy led by the FCM, provincial-territorial associations, and local leaders across Canada, the federal government has indicated in the 2023 Budget that it will not be meeting the request to absorb the retroactive costs associated with the latest RCMP collective bargaining agreement.
The decision has “very disappointing,” said Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley, but at the same time he suggested it was not exactly a surprise either.
Still, Hippsley said he had been optimistic of at least some help headed into the budget.
“What I honestly thought because this started two years ago there would be something,” he said, adding when a process takes months there is an expectation.
“I thought they were listening. I thought there would be some half way point.”
In the end though the budget confirmed that communities across Canada that are dependent on RCMP services for local policing are expected to cover these costs, and offered details on a repayment period for municipalities – by the end of March in 2025.
Hippsley said Yorkton did set aside some funds in expectation of facing added costs with the new RCMP contract negotiated by the federal government without a municipal presence at the table.
“We have about two-thirds set aside for retro pay,” he said, noting the total costs of retroactive pay for the local municipal force is roughly $1 million.
While Hippsley said they believe there should be help in offsetting that cost, it does not mean the local municipality has an issue with RCMP getting a pay hike.
“We have a great relationship with the local detachment. They keep our city peaceful. They maintain law and order. How do you put a cost on that,” he said.
“This is about pointing the finger at Ottawa.”
In a release FCM did the finger pointing too.
“Municipalities have been crystal clear,” said FCM president Taneen Rudyk in the release. “Local governments were not at the table for these negotiations. And while cost estimates were provided to some municipalities, these turned out to be far below the final agreement’s increase over six years, with retroactive pay going back to 2017.
“The federal government’s refusal to absorb these costs – which were essentially negotiated with municipal money but not with municipal input – is not acceptable. Municipal councils will be forced to make incredibly tough decisions, such as making cuts to essential services or passing the bill along to residents, at a time when Canadians’ concerns about local safety and the cost of living are already rising.”
The release also noted the lack of a seat at the contract negotiation table even though municipalities pay the bill.
This decision is an example of a federal commitment that deeply impacts municipalities without municipalities being properly consulted or involved, noted the release. Municipal governments are paying a growing share of policing costs, but they cannot run deficits and have limited revenue tools.
Communities across the country are facing significant costs associated with this decision of the federal government. Outlined below are cost estimates (supplied by FCM) shared by some:
* City of Moncton, NB: $5.7 million, population 79,470
* Town of Hinton, AB: $750,000, population 9,882
* City of Portage la Prairie, MB: $800,000, population 13,270
* City of Vernon, BC: $3.4 million, population 44,519
FCM is clearly reiterating the need for municipalities to be actively involved in any future processes regarding contract policing.
“This situation cannot occur again,” said Rudyk in the release. “Going forward, municipalities must be properly consulted on issues related to policing costs given the municipal responsibility to keep our communities safe.”