Alberta proposal could see towns pay more for policing

The Alberta government is proposing that communities with fewer than 5,000 people start sharing some of the costs for policing.  |  Getty image

Small municipalities in Alberta may have to pay more for policing services if a proposal by the United Conservative Party government is implemented, according to documents.

A government slide show presentation, obtained by the NDP opposition, says the province is proposing that communities with fewer than 5,000 people start sharing some of the costs for policing.

Currently, the province covers policing costs for such communities. There are 291 small municipalities, or 20 percent of Alberta’s population, that don’t pay for policing through municipal taxes.

“In the last election, the UCP ran on protecting rural people from crime. What they didn’t say is that rural people would have to pay the cost, without getting a single new resource,” NDP leader Rachel Notley said during a news conference.

“This is a complete 180 and is a broken promise to rural Albertans, plain and simple,” she said.

The proposal, according to the slide show, could see communities paying 15 to 70 percent for front-line policing if they choose to keep it.

Notley said it could result in taxes increasing to $145 to $406 per person per year to maintain services. She said the figure comes from Alberta finance officials.

“Communities paying for additional services might not afford to do so,” she said. “You could see a drop in services.”

The UCP didn’t deny the proposal.

It said it has made a commitment to consult on a police- funding model and is investing more in policing, not less.

“The assertions made by the fear-mongering NDP are ridiculous and unfounded and once again demonstrate the NDP’s complete lack of financial literacy,” Doug Schweitzer, justice minister and solicitor general, said in an emailed statement.

Al Kemmere, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, said small counties and municipal districts don’t want the proposal to be implemented.

He said he expects some municipalities to either increase taxes or reduce services to make up for the extra costs if the proposal goes ahead.

“When small communities are on the bubble of viability, which some will be, this may push them to the edge and counties or municipal districts will have to pick that cost up,” he said.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), which also represents some small towns, said in an email that even though it’s aware of concerns that some municipalities would have to bear more costs, it has advocated for a new funding model.

It wants a model that addresses RCMP vacancies and the rising costs of policing, as well as addressing a community’s ability to pay.

AUMA wants the transition period for a new funding model to include an adequate impact assessment and notice period, as well as ensure revenue from fines stays in the municipalities in which they were generated.

Joe Ceci, the NDP municipal affairs critic, said making small communities pay more makes life less affordable for residents.

“Our municipalities need support, and we need a provincial government that understands there’s only one taxpayer,” he said. “These cuts will leave local leaders with no choice but to raise taxes on rural Albertans, cut policing, cut other municipal services, or a combination of the three.”

Notley suggested the UCP is only paying lip service to rural communities by potentially downloading costs rather than offering stable funding.

The UCP is on a rural crime tour, consulting with residents on ways it can help reduce break-and-enters and property theft.

Despite potentially making municipalities pay more, the UCP has promised it is moving on spending $37 million on crime reduction initiatives. Of that, $20 million of those funds are for ALERT, $10 million for more crown prosecutors and support staff, $5 million to expand drug treatment court and $2 million for electronic monitoring technology.

While in government, the NDP introduced a $10 million rural crime strategy, which will likely continue.

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