By Andrea Arnold

Communities served by RCMP across Canada are scrambling to find between $138 – $145 million dollars collectively. The bill is to cover retroactive RCMP costs associated with their latest collective agreement covering 2017-present. The Federal government will not be absorbing the retroactive contract cost increases, and passed that responsibility on to communities.

“Municipalities in excess of 5,000 (people) have directly received invoices to pay,” said McBride CFO Sandy Salt at the April 11th McBride council meeting. “Municipalities less than 5,000 have not received anything directly, however, we are bracing ourselves in case something comes down to us through the Regional District or something like that. We haven’t been informed one way or another of a set amount. I’m sure we may see something. We may see it come across in the tax rates we get from the RCMP, but I haven’t received those yet this year.”

Valemount Director of Finance, Lori McNee is looking into the situation to see how it will impact Valemount. 

“I have contacted the Ministry to request an update to the 2023 requisition and if the RCMP retro payments will be affecting our Village,” she said. 

The new RCMP collective agreement covering a six year period beginning on April 1, 2017 was ratified last April. The agreement included a $25,000 annual pay raise for sergeants and $20,000 for constables retroactively effective to 2017. This increase brought RCMP officer compensation closer to the equivalent of those in municipal police departments. Local governments were warned in advance of the increase, but in many cases, the amount exceeded expectations. Municipalities were told to expect an estimated 2.5 per cent increase per year, but even those communities that planned ahead have finances falling short of the overall 23.7 per cent increase over the six years.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Craig Hodge, co-chairman of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) and a Coquitlam city councillor said that even those municipalities that put aside money for this, it’s not enough. 

“All B.C. municipalities with RCMP are impacted to some degree.”

For example, Prince George had put away $4 million in anticipation, however, the amount they are expecting to pay exceeds that by $2.5 million. Banff had prepared for a 2.5 percent increase, but the actual increase hit the 4.5 per cent mark. 

Hinton is facing an estimated bill of $750,000. This translates to a 5.8 percent tax increase for the residents.

Several communities have made their estimated bill amounts public on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities website. Cochrane is expecting to see between 1 – 1.3 million, Red Deer $5.37 million, Kamloops will see an increase of 23 per cent in operation costs bringing their 2022 amount to just over $30 million, and Vernon has to pay a one time payment of about $3.4 millions dollars.

In a media backgrounder, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities called on the federal government to absorb all retroactive costs associated with implementation and secondly, commit to ensuring municipalities are properly consulted on measures that would impact local fiscal sustainability and ability to maintain effective levels of police services. Some flexibility on the timeline for the payment of the money has been presented, but ultimately, communities will have to find the funds.

“The federal government’s refusal to absorb these costs — which were essentially negotiated with municipal money but not with municipal input — is not acceptable,” FCM president Taneen Rudyk said in a statement. “Municipal councils will be forced to make incredibly tough decisions.”

The municipality of St. Paul Alberta received an invoice for $327,835 that was presented to Council at the April 11th meeting. The notice specified that the balance must be paid within 45 days. Council unanimously voted to defer payment but is unclear what the repercussions may be.