(Vancouver Province) - B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she won’t rule out a move to a provincial policing model should the province fail to strike an agreeable deal with Ottawa to extend the current RCMP contract that is set to expire next year.
Following her maiden speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities on Friday, Clark told reporters that preliminary research by her staff revealed that replacing the RCMP with a provincial force might actually be cheaper than the deal currently on the table.
“That may change,” Clark conceded, adding she hopes the province doesn’t have to go down that route. “We are in the early stages of investigating that. But we have a responsibility to investigate it and make sure.”
Clark said she is optimistic an agreement will be reached with Ottawa, but noted that the deal has to make financial sense and be in the best interest of taxpayers. The main issue, she said, is one of cost containment and protecting municipalities from being on the hook for unchecked spending that doesn’t put more officers on the street.
She said she was heartened by comments made earlier in the day by Federal Heritage Minister James Moore who told UBCM delegates that Ottawa is keen to “work together” with the province to hammer out a deal acceptable to all parties.
“We want to work together with British Columbia, with municipalities, and we want to move forward on this item,” said Moore, the conservative MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam. “Our government believes that after four years of negotiations, we need to finalize agreements.”
Shortly after, UBCM delegates passed an emergency resolution requesting that the federal government return to the bargaining table with its provincial counterpart to negotiate a new deal for the RCMP.
Moore’s conciliatory tone was considerably different than the picture painted by B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond earlier in the week when she told a UBCM crowd that Ottawa was pursuing a “takeit-or-leave-it” negotiating stance.
“Basically, they sent us back their version of the contract and said, ‘We want you to sign the end of November or you can expect us to begin to withdraw the RCMP in British Columbia in 2014,’” Bond said on Tuesday.
Moore, however, said his government has been negotiating in good faith and that both parties in fact agree “on almost all aspects of this issue,” including funding, the funding formula and ideas of governance.