The District of Squamish council reluctantly signed the RCMP contract, after becoming the last municipality in the province to hold out on the new 20-year agreement.
RCMP policing involves three contracts, on which the first two are between the federal and provincial governments. Once those are signed, the province hands municipalities uniform documents.
“We have basically not been included in that process and in the end were then presented with a contract and an expiry date,” Mayor Rob Kirkham said at a special business meeting of council on Friday (June 29).
The district had refused put its signature on the dotted line in the hopes that officials could negotiate billing concerns with the province, Kirkham said. Squamish politicians balked at paying fees for services not used by the community. The contract includes additional cost for enhanced reporting and accountability administration and legal advisory services.
It also charges capital costs for the new Lower Mainland headquarters, called Green Timbers, in Surrey. That tab, along with entrance security for the facility, is being shared by all municipalities, even though local bodies currently aren't charged for the headquarters on Heather Street in Vancouver.
“In fact that hasn't been nailed down,” Kirkham said in regard to the construction and operation costs of the headquarters.
In the end, Kirkham noted the district had little choice but to sign the contract. If the municipality had missed the June 30 deadline, it wouldn't receive its 10 per cent provincial funding for policing, he noted.
“Just that 10 per cent is rough $450,000,” Kirkham said.
Squamish's population growth has bumped it into a higher RCMP payment bracket, which is already a “considerable hit,” he noted. In 2011, the district paid for 70 per cent of policing costs, with the province covering the rest. This year the municipality is faced with dishing out 90 per cent of the bill — a difference of approximately $1 million.
“The signing of the contract, in my mind, does not put this all away and to bed,” Kirkham said.
Coun. Susan Chapelle said she was “shocked” that other communities didn't take a stand. Facing a 10 per cent funding loss, the municipality had little choice but to follow suit.
Coun. Bryan Raiser reiterated Chapelle's sentiments on social media, stating that by itself, the municipality has no power.
“I can't wait for UBCM (the Union of British Columbia Municipalities) when I can ask the cowards why they all caved so easily,” Raiser wrote.
It's time to revisit policing options, Kirkham concluded. The municipality did complete a report when the district paid for 70 per cent of its RCMP costs, but now at 90 per cent and facing rising bills, the conclusion may be different, Kirkham noted.
“We have started to look at conversations around alternatives,” he said.