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Banff, Canmore prepared for retroactive RCMP pay charge

“Given that the municipality was not invited to the table and was not involved in negotiations. I would have much preferred the government covering the retroactive pay so we could cover the increased cost going forward.”
20210805 Canmore RCMP 0006
Canmore RCMP detachment. RMO FILE PHOTO

BOW VALLEY – A new collective bargaining agreement between the National Police Federation and the federal government led to an increase in pay for RCMP officers throughout the country, but the financial burden of covering those costs will be on the backs of municipal taxpayers.

Despite the cost that will be shouldered by municipalities that use RCMP officers, those communities were not part of the collective bargaining. Across Alberta, municipalities are expected to pay roughly $60 million.

The Town of Canmore will be on the hook for about $1 million, while it is expected to cost the Town of Banff slightly more than $400,000.

“There are multiple components around the RCMP billing. The purely retroactive pay is $521,000,” said Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert. “We do have money set aside for that.”

Krausert said the other component was the increase in coverage of police costs for the community from 70 per cent to 90 per cent. Under the RCMP pay structure for municipalities, communities between 5,001 and 15,000 people cover 70 per cent of costs and the federal government picks up the rest of the tab. However, once a municipality crosses the 15,000 population threshold – such as Canmore at the last census – the municipality gets 90 per cent of the bill and the federal government 10 per cent.

For Canmore, the estimated retroactive pay could come to $1 million, along with a 2.5 per cent increase per year for RCMP costs. The budgeted cost for RCMP services in 2022 was just over $3 million, well above the $2.7 million cost in 2021.

“That amount, we have not been billed yet since last April when the census came out,” Krausert said. “That is probably going to be in that $450,000 to $500,000 range.”

Money has been set aside, Krausert said, in the budget for what they believe the amount will be. For the $521,000 that was set aside for retroactive pay, $566,000 had been accrued by Canmore.

Krausert doesn’t feel that this will impact the town’s relationship with the RCMP.

“The administration and the Town of Canmore have a long relationship with the RCMP and a positive relationship,” Krausert said.

If the costs are not absorbed, which is what the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) is hoping for, then municipalities will have two years to pay for the cost of the pay raise.

“Unfortunately, the recently released federal budget did not include a federal commitment to absorb the costs of the RCMP retroactive pay decision,” a March 31 news release from RMA stated. “Instead, it provided municipal policing contract holders with a two-year extension to pay retroactive costs. While the budget item did not specify whether the extension would be applied to provinces with PPSAs (Provincial Police Service Agreement), it implies that the government of Alberta will bear the responsibility for these retroactive costs. This carries a high risk that the costs could be downloaded onto municipalities that receive policing through the PPSA through changes to the police funding model.”

Alberta Municipalities, an advocacy organization for municipalities in Alberta, echoed RMA by saying it was “dismayed” the federal government would not be providing financial assistance to cover the backpay. The organization noted it was not consulted by the federal government during negotiations and called the process unfair.

“The federal government clearly failed to consider the severe financial repercussions this retroactive pay increase will have on the hundreds of communities that currently count on Alberta’s RCMP to meet their local policing needs. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect municipalities to find the additional funds needed to pay for this in their annual budgets,” stated an April 3 release from Alberta Municipalities.

Canmore council adopted a resolution in late 2021 to join the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in its efforts to have the federal government cover the costs. In the end, there was no consultation with municipalities over the issue.

“Given that the municipality was not invited to the table and was not involved in negotiations, I would have much preferred the government covering the retroactive pay so we could cover the increased cost going forward,” Krausert said.

Even with the increased cost, Krausert said he doesn’t see this as any reason for the province to adopt its own provincial police force.

“I think that they are independent issues,” Krausert said. “The cost of policing going forward, it still makes sense to work with the RCMP and make any desired changes in the current system, rather than reinventing the wheel.”

Following the release of the federal budget, FCM said it was disappointed to not see the federal government providing assistance and leaving municipalities to face the financial crunch of RCMP backpay.

“The federal government’s refusal to absorb these costs – which were essentially negotiated with municipal money but not with municipal input – is not acceptable. Municipal councils will be forced to make incredibly tough decisions, such as making cuts to essential services or passing the bill along to residents, at a time when Canadians’ concerns about local safety and the cost of living are already rising,” said FCM president Taneen Rudyk in a media release.

“This situation cannot occur again,” said Rudyk. “Going forward, municipalities must be properly consulted on issues related to policing costs given the municipal responsibility to keep our communities safe.”

For the Town of Banff, Chris Hughes, director of corporate services, said the community was prepared for the retroactive coverage of the RCMP pay.

“We took direction from the federal government and began saving funds as responsible fiscal management,” he said in an email.

He added that the Town of Banff had begun preparing for this in 2017, and saved $70,000 each year from that point on to cover the cost.

“We were informed early in the process to expect a 2.5 per cent retroactive pay, so we began accruing that extra amount every year and collected taxes in anticipation that we would be liable to pay these amounts,” Hughes said.

With the bargaining process completed, the community received an estimate of owing between $400,000 and $424,000 in retroactive pay.

“We adjusted our accrual at the time to the conservative end of the estimate to ensure we had adequate funds,” Hughes said. “In the end, our actual invoice came in at approximately $408,000, resulting in an extra savings of $16,000.”

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