NDP claims Alberta government proposes to have small rural communities pay more for policing
Alberta’s official opposition claims the UCP government will make small municipalities pay for some, or most, of their policing costs.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley says some municipalities are being told they’ll have to pay between 15 to 70 per cent of policing costs. At the high end, that would average out to $406 per resident a year.
According to Notley, those details are all in a transcript released by her caucus of a webinar broadcast earlier this month by Justice Department staff to municipal officials. The documents show the government is considering cuts to policing for rural municipalities with populations of 5,000 or fewer. Those 291 districts represent about 20 per cent of Alberta's population.
"There will be a lot less predictability in terms of how these policing services are offered," said Notley. "There’s a lot less consistency across the board and you’re also going to see either the taxpayer pays more or other services are cut."
The province currently spends nearly $223 million a year to cover the full cost of policing in small communities.
Notley voiced her concerns as Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer continues his month long rural crime review of Alberta municipalities.
In a statement, Schweitzer says the NDP are using fearmongering tactics and that the actual plan is to invest more in policing.
"The NDP’s disregard for public safety has resulted in a lack of faith in the justice system where many rural Albertan are not reporting crimes due to the revolving-door justice system that flourished under the NDP," said Schweitzer in his statement. "Because the NDP was tone deaf to the needs of rural Albertans, failing to provide adequate funding to rural communities, many have taken it upon themselves to privately fund enhanced rural crime watches to provide the safety in their communities that the NDP wouldn’t."
Schweitzer’s statement did not address the NDP’s specific concerns, nor did it say whether his department is indeed seeking to have rural municipalities pay some of their policing cost and, if so, how much.
Kenney has said that the government needs to find savings to end the multibillion-dollar budget deficit in the next four years. He campaigned on a platform to reduce rural crime, promised to hire more prosecutors and recommended that crimes in rural areas be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing.
While still in government, Notley's NDP brought in a $10 million rural crime strategy that included streamlining and hiring more police and prosecutors. The 2018-19 Justice Department's annual report says that led to reduced car thefts and break and enters and a nine per cent drop in rural property crime.
With files from The Canadian Press