(Published in 24 Hours Oct. 12, 2011)

Province-wide cop force won't happen


   By Leo Knight


The negotiations over a 20-year renewal of the RCMP contract in BC has reignited the debate over whether there should be a provincial police force or at the least, a regional police force in the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria.

Indeed, even Premier Christy Clark mused openly on the subject at an annual gathering of provincial civic leaders when negotiations seemed to fall apart. Although, how it might be accomplished in the next year remains something of a mystery.

But there are two significant reasons why it is very unlikely to ever transpire, the first of which is cost.

As things stand, the cost for policing in RCMP jurisdictions is split between the municipality, the province and the federal government, with the local government paying the largest share.

At the very least, a provincial police force would mean a cost increase equal to the federal portion of the funding formula. Any suggestion that it would be more cost efficient is either misleading or naive.

While MLA and former chief of the West Vancouver Police Department, Kash Heed is on the record supporting a provincial force with regional police forces in the Lower Mainland, Greater Victoria and the Okanagan valley, I doubt he or anyone else could muster the requisite political support to make such a thing happen.

And thatís the second significant reason why it is unlikely.

There isnít sufficient cooperation between local governments as things stand.

Why, for example, are there two municipal governments, two mayors, two councils, two city managers, two fire departments and two separate bureaucracies in North Vancouver, yet only one RCMP detachment?

Clearly it would make economic sense to merge into one government. Yet, the merger discussion has been ongoing for as long as anyone can remember with absolutely zero progress, momentum, or indeed, anyone to champion such a move.

The same situation exists in Langley with the Township of Langley and the City of Langley. On the north side of the Fraser River, the governments of the City of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam couldnít even agree on the house numbering system for the road that separates the two municipalities.

How are they ever going to agree on control of a policing system that is shared across the province?

The small-minded thinking and parochialism that exists in the Lower Mainland is such that it will prevent a regional or provincial policing system, even if one doesnít factor in the extra cost to the taxpayer. That is why the deal for a new contract with the RCMP is going to happen, despite the political posturing.

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