An RCMP officer in Surrey

Thaw in chilly talks to keep RCMP in B.C.

Civic rep Fassbender hopeful: 'Nobody is threatening anybody at the moment'

A deal may be close in talks between B.C. and the federal government to keep the RCMP as the police force for most cities.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, the municipal observer in the negotiations, said the tone of federal officials has become more cooperative and conciliatory, adding “significant” progress was made this week.

“Nobody is threatening anybody at the moment,” he said after returning from negotiations in Ottawa. “I am more optimistic than I’ve been that we’ll get there.”

Federal officials told B.C. in September to sign a new 20-year RCMP contract by the end of this month or else they’d begin withdrawing the Mounties in 2014.

That ultimatum prompted B.C. to start assessing what it would take to launch a replacement force.

Fassbender said a final deal isn’t likely by the end-of-month deadline but added a framework may be ready and he doubts Ottawa would “pull the trigger” and act on its threat if that’s the case.

“I can’t see the federal government using a calendar date as the breaking point if we’re moving ahead and close to a deal.”

The agreement, if concluded, will be a 20-year contract with an option every five years for any party to reopen discussions on any aspect of it, he said.

Any city or province will be able to opt out of the RCMP on two years notice, he said.

Ottawa hasn’t budged on B.C.’s demands for a more generous cost-sharing formula, which currently sees large cities pay 90 per cent of local RCMP costs, while smaller ones shoulder 70 per cent.

But Fassbender believes new provisions, including a contract management committee, will give cities much more meaningful input and control in containing escalating RCMP costs and influencing decisions made in Ottawa on an ongoing basis.

Fassbender said the provincial government is continuing to evaluate what an alternate force to replace the RCMP might look like and what might be involved.

“It doesn’t hurt to know what the option is,” he said. “If a deal comes together and we sign a 20-year contract I don’t think we have to look at it as earnestly as

if we weren’t going to have a deal.”

Solicitor General Shirley Bond said some simpler items have been settled in the talks but complex issues remain.

“I’m hopeful that the momentum that’s taking place in bargaining would allow us to make sure there isn’t an arbitrary deadline,” she said.

Bond said cities want to keep the RCMP if possible, but “certainly not at all costs.”

B.C., home to the largest number of Mounties in the country, has been thrust into a position of leading the talks on behalf of other provinces and territories.

Its bargaining position eroded earlier this year when Saskatchewan and Alberta broke ranks and renewed their RCMP contracts, but with a me-too clause that also gives them any improvements B.C. negotiates.

The current RCMP contract expires at the end of March.

SFU criminologist Rob Gordon said B.C. should press forward – even if there is a deal – to set up regional police forces in Metro Vancouver and Victoria to replace the current mish-mash of municipal police and RCMP detachments in those areas.

“B.C. needs to proceed straight away to seriously look at the alternatives,” he said, adding that should take the form of a task force or blue-ribbon review.

Advocates like Gordon maintain a regional force would be better equipped to bust gangs and other criminals who don’t care about civic borders.

Gordon said civic leaders like Fassbender seem too focused on the cost of the RCMP without considering the efficiency gains from switching to a regional force.

“He’s still very much in favour of the RCMP because he can’t see a viable alternative,” Gordon said. “The municipal concerns are very parochial, focused very much on financing. There’s no talk of efficiency along with the costs.”

There are 11 RCMP detachments in the Lower Mainland, including Burnaby, Richmond, North Vancouver and Surrey. Seven cities are policed by municipal forces.

B.C. disbanded its former provincial police force in 1950 in favour of the RCMP.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

Twitter: @jeffnagel

Just Posted

Sex assault numbers tell strange story for Princeton

Police organizations across the country were roughly shaken last week by a… Continue reading

COLUMN: Just because you’re stupid doesn’t mean you’re stupid

A little page five levity from this week’s Spotlight

Police warn small planes away from Princeton airport

RCMP are warning planes away from the Princeton airport. Well, really small… Continue reading

Regional district and city hoping to curb bad recycling behaviours

City of Penticton and the RDOS are teaming up to eliminate contaminates

What you can burn, where you can burn it

The laws about what you can burn, and what you can’t burn,… Continue reading

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

Who is Curtis Sagmoen?

The Observer reveals what we know about the man attached to the Silver Creek property where human remains were found

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Foreigner feeling like the first time after 40

Foreigner doesn’t miss a beat after 40 years

Octoberfest is the toast of the town

Eighth annual night of fun, music and brews

Five decades of volunteering

Even though she is approaching 70, Merle kindred continues to volunteer around the world

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Most Read