There’s been a shortage of RCMP officers in Manitoba over the last five years, says Manitoba’s Conservative justice critic, who questions whether the province can afford to send 90 officers to Saskatchewan as reinforcements in a labour dispute.
“When you take a force that is already under strain with a lack of officers, and then you remove 90 from the force, it’s going to have an impact,” Kelvin Goertzen said.
“Had we dealt with the problem … over the last number of years and the government ensured there was enough RCMP officers in Manitoba, this would be less of a concern.”
About 90 Mounties left Winnipeg Thursday morning to spend 10 days helping their Saskatchewan colleagues staff correctional and youth facilities, after 800 public service workers went on strike on Dec. 20.
They are joining more than 170 Alberta RCMP officers who are also going to Saskatchewan as reinforcements. The Manitoba officers are due to return on Jan. 6.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Steve Saunders said Thursday that the Saskatchewan deployment should not affect the daily operations of basic services in Manitoba, since the officers being deployed are from long-term investigative units and are not front-line officers.
“The majority of the members have been taken out of headquarters. Their investigations are often long-term and we can afford to stand them down for about 10 days and pick up those investigations again when they return,” Saunders said.
“Our detachments and the communities that we’re serving will not be impacted by this. The men and women who are answering the phones and responding to the calls will continue to do that.”
Cpl. Sue Downs, an investigator with the commercial crimes unit, said she will miss spending the rest of her holidays with her husband and six children, but noted that sudden redeployment comes with being an RCMP officer.
“When you’re a member of the RCMP this is what you’ve signed up to do — is work anywhere,” she said Thursday, before boarding a bus westward. “And for the next 10 days my work’s going to be in Saskatchewan.”
The provincial government has been told the impact of the 90 officers’ deployment will be minimal, and the Saskatchewan government and RCMP will pay for the operation.
Whether more officers will be needed after Jan. 6 has yet to be determined.