‘We don’t see a clear path’: Premiers want clarity on future of RCMP from feds

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke announced on Friday that city council has voted in favour of keeping the RCMP in Surrey. But as Monika Gul reports, that’s a decision Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth needs to approve before it’s official.

Canada’s premiers, including B.C.’s David Eby, are asking the federal government to take a clear stand on the future of the RCMP.

The demand comes on the heels of a meeting between the premiers in Manitoba, and as RCMP job vacancies continue to go unfilled.

It also comes as Surrey, B.C.’s fastest growing city, deals with its controversial police transition. Council continues to wait to hear if the province’s assessment results in reverting back to the RCMP as the current mayor wants, or continuing with the Surrey Police Service.

Eby says the number of vacancies are creating challenges.

“We don’t see a clear path from the federal government about filling those vacancies,” he said Wednesday.

“We have officers that have to work extended shifts, that are increasingly strained and stressed and then going off on leave, making the problem worse.”

According to the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety, within the province’s more than 10,000 jobs, the force “currently has about 1,500 vacancies across all services (Federal, Provincial and Municipal) in British Columbia.”

Eby and his counterparts have questioned whether the ongoing vacancies hint that the force doesn’t have a long-term future.

“There’s a clear direction from the prime minister to his public safety minister to start the conversation with premiers. The contract as a whole is up in the early 2030s and we need to know which direction the federal government is going with contract policing because the current situation is not sustainable for British Columbia,” Eby said.

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“The Ministry has implemented enhanced proactive monitoring of vacancies throughout B.C. Efforts include discussions with senior RCMP staff across the province that is focused on addressing vacancies, mitigation strategies and their related impacts across B.C.,” a statement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General reads.

“As part of the Provincial Government’s Safer Communities Action Plan, announced November 20, 2022, the Province has approved an unprecedented, multi-year investment of approximately $230 million to the base funding for the RCMP, as the Provincial Police Service.  This funding will address existing gaps in staffing, allowing the Provincial Police Service to reach its full authorized strength of 2,602 members.”

In Surrey, council has already voted to return to the RCMP. However, the report it used to back up that decision is still with B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, who will ultimately have the final say.

The police transition was first put in motion by former Mayor Doug McCallum.

The city’s latest decision, announced in June, came weeks after the province provided an independent recommendation that the SPS transition continue, citing staffing challenges with the RCMP.

The province also offered financial assistance to the tune of $150 million to offset the transition cost — something the city won’t get if it sticks with the RCMP.

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