Rural Alberta gets more police officers, but must pay for them directly

Premier wants areas to pay portion of overall costs on rising scale to bring in extra $200M by 2024

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, speak in Edmonton on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta’s small municipalities and rural areas are getting more Mounties — but they’re also getting the bill for it.

Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government says starting next year, those areas will pay a portion of overall policing costs on a rising scale in order to raise an extra $200 million by 2024.

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said that money, along with a rising federal contribution, will mean an extra $286 million for those rural areas over five years.

It is to be used to hire 300 officers, plus others in specialized crime units such as drug trafficking.

“This is truly a partnership where we’ve listened to Albertans,” Schweitzer told the house Wednesday, while the Opposition NDP shouted back that his plan was a “bait and switch.”

“We’ve listened to the rural municipalities to find a new path forward that is sustainable,” Schweitzer added.

He said the move will help fight rural crime and ensure local leaders have a say on a new police advisory board.

“Rural Albertans know they have a true voice now in government to make sure that their concerns are addressed to help keep them safe in their communities,” said Schweitzer.

The NDP said hiring more police is a laudable goal.

But it said it was ”duplicitous” for the UCP to promise more police resources for rural areas, force those residents to pay for the added service themselves — probably through higher property taxes — then trumpet the move in a news release as a “historic investment in rural policing.”

“I’ve never seen people who actually work in (government) communications get dragged into being this duplicitous,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley.

“The municipalities are paying for it. There’s not one extra red cent going to this policing announcement from the provincial government.”

Small municipalities under 5,000 residents and other rural districts have previously had their policing costs entirely covered by the province at a cost of almost $233 million a year.

The 291 districts represent about 20 per cent of the Alberta population.

The municipalities, with some exceptions, will begin paying for 10 per cent of their total policing costs starting next year, rising to 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022 and 30 per cent the year after that.

Under its deal with the federal government, Alberta pays 70 per cent of policing costs and Ottawa pays 30 per cent. As the provincial contribution rises, so does the federal payout to maintain that ratio.

READ MORE: Justice Minister advocates UCP rural crime plan

Al Kemmere, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, said it appreciates having input on the new Alberta Police Advisory Board, but the cost is concerning.

“Rural crime has been an ongoing issue in Alberta in recent years, and rural municipalities recognize they need to share in the costs of the solutions to support safer communities,” said Kemmere in a statement.

“Absorbing additional policing costs will be a significant challenge for rural municipalities given the current economic environment.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

Lacombe resident creates labyrinth near Breton

Marsha Duggan encourages others to use their imagination

1 in 7 Albertans have been tested for COVID-19

56 additional cases Thursday, 1,107 active cases remain in the province

#EndBikeTheft campaign comes to Lacombe

CACPC and 529 Garage partner to register bikes in central Alberta

PHOTOS: North Viewpoint Bridge opened at Ellis Bird Farm

A grant from Dow Canada allowed the project to go forward

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors gathered along 56 St Wetaskiwin, Alta. August 4, 2020 for Indigenous Lives Matter.

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

13-year-old charged in death of boy, 10 in Maskwacis

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Most Read