Squamish’s mayor this year accused provincial officials of threatening to yank funding for 911 dispatch service as a tool during the recently resolved RCMP contract negotiations.
During talks regarding what RCMP services payment bracket the District of Squamish fit into, provincial officials raised discussions on the municipality’s E-Comm 911 agreement, Mayor Rob Kirkham said. The district switched to the Vancouver-based emergency communication centre from its internal Operations Communications Centre (OCC) in 2007, after analysis indicated the move would save money.
The province agreed to foot the dispatch service’s bill, as long as the municipality contributed cash to regional integrated policing teams, Kirkham said. In 2010, the municipality paid $298,000 to the special incident organization and $397,000 the following year.
In a March 23, 2010, letter obtained by The Chief through a Freedom of Information request, then-Solicitor General Kash Heed states the province would cease to pay the municipality’s 911 call centre’s bills as of June 1, 2010 — a tab that came to $368,000 during Squamish’s first year with E-Comm 911.
“The district will be required to pay the E-Comm costs or pay to re-establish an OCC with the detachment,” Heed wrote to then-Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner.
No action was taken by the province, Kirkham said on Tuesday (Sept. 18).
“The E-Comm was sort of thrown into the conversation, but nothing has changed as far as the way it was administered,” he said.
In several letters to then-Minister of Public Safety Michael de Jong, Gardner referred to the action as a “threat,” adding it wasn’t helpful during the RCMP negotiations.
“It suggests that rather than seeking to address the issue in a timely manner, the province seeks to leverage its position through collateral means,” he wrote.
In a letter to current Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond dated April 26, 2012, Kirkham followed suit. He wrote the decision by the now-retired director of the province’s police services, Kevin Begg, was “simply vindictive.”
"He was clear that he initiated this as a result of his disappointment with our interpretation of contract law as related to RCMP costing in the agreement,” Kirkham stated in the 2012 letter.
The E-Comm contract expires this fall, Kirkham told The Chief, noting the district doesn’t known whether the province will take up its previous stance.
In an emailed statement to The Chief, Bond said it is her responsibility to ensure adequate and effective policing in all B.C. communities.
“I recognize that containing policing costs is important to our municipalities,” she stated. “Squamish has now crossed over the 15,000 persons threshold, which has an effect on their policing model on a number of fronts.”
Ministry staff has been working with the District of Squamish to determine a fair approach to managing those increasing costs and that work will continue, she noted.
On August 2, The Chief reported the district came out on top of a $2-million tug-of-war over RCMP contract payments.