New bill lays groundwork for Alberta provincial police

14 March 2024
New bill lays groundwork for Alberta provincial police

The Alberta government is introducing legislation that will lay the groundwork for a new provincial police agency that is made up of sheriffs. But there is no timeline or budget for when the changeover would take place, if the bill is passed by the legislature.

Bill 11, an amendment to the public safety statutes, establishes an independent policing agency governed by a civilian oversight board to oversee operations and provide accountability for Alberta sheriffs. The bill was introduced Wednesday by Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis.

In a news conference earlier on Wednesday, Ellis said the new service would not replace the RCMP in Alberta, as provincial police officers will work with existing police forces.

But then Ellis said the provincial government was building out the sheriffs’ service just in case the RCMP pulled out of local policing when the current contract expires in 2032.

“The RCMP just do not have enough human beings to police Canada, regardless of the amount of money that we give them,” Ellis said. “That’s a challenge, I get that. But I can’t wait for them to just continue to try to figure stuff out.”

There is no money being set aside in the budget to implement an Alberta provincial police service. Ellis could not provide a timeline for when it would be up and running.

RCMP supported by many municipalities

The bill is yet another step in the contentious debate over who provides policing in Alberta outside of the municipalities that have their own police forces.

The push to establish an Alberta provincial police force started after the report from the Fair Deal Panel was released in 2020. That report recommended the province move ahead with its creation.

The subsequent PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by the provincial government said the cost of transitioning from the RCMP would be at least $366 million. The province would lose the $170 million in funding it received from the federal government.

Ifran Sabir, the NDP Opposition justice critic, said the province should be focusing on bigger priorities like stopping drug poisoning deaths, providing affordable housing, education, droughts and wildfires.

He said the UCP didn’t campaign on this issue in last year’s election, nor was it included in her mandate letters to Ellis and Justice Minister Mickey Amery.

Sabir said he believes the UCP’s reason to move to a provincial police force is based on politics, not on a desire to provide greater public safety.

“They want to tell their base that they are somehow standing up to Ottawa by adding more costs onto municipalities, adding more costs onto Albertans,” he said, “without doing anything to address public safety, without addressing homelessness, without addressing mental health, addiction crisis and all other issues that are facing Albertans.”

Many Alberta municipalities have written letters to the province opposing the transition away from the RCMP. Some have applied for the $30,000 grant offered by the province to study local policing options. Both Alberta Municipalities and Rural Municipalities of Alberta oppose the move.

Bill 11 also enables Alberta to take over the electronic monitoring program for violent, high risk and sexual provincial offenders.

The program is currently provided by a private company, with costs paid by individual offenders.

The new program will use GPS technology, be available around the clock and watched by a central unit within Alberta corrections. The province will also cover all costs.

The new program is expected to start this fall.

Source: cbc

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