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Provincial police proposal brings about quarrel and questions

Alberta's Official Opposition would see the United Conservative Party's pitch for a provincial police force cuffed and locked away.

NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir said the proposed plan isn't a "blueprint," but rather a "boondoggle."

"The UCP will spend hundreds of millions of dollars just to set up a new police force when what Albertans want is better policing focused on addressing crime and its root causes. That’s what I hear in Calgary, where Albertans are concerned about the rise in gun violence," Sabir said Tuesday, shortly after details of the proposed plan were made public.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro spoke Tuesday to the government's idea of an Alberta Provincial Police Service, which would see, among other moves, sworn officers currently working in administrative positions at larger detachments redeployed to front-line roles in rural and remote communities to bolster the numbers of active officers in those areas.

The move would see the province do away with the RCMP — a move Sabir does not believe Albertans want.

"Alberta can invest in better policing without blowing up the RCMP. Also, the UCP should not be able to dismantle the RCMP while under investigation by the RCMP," Sabir said.

"No one is asking for this and the UCP needs to start listening."

Likewise, Alberta Municipalities took aim at the UCP push for provincial policing on Tuesday, releasing a statement of its own to communicate its concerns.

"We do not believe enough consultation and engagement occurred between the Government of Alberta, local governments and key stakeholders like us," the statement read.

Alberta Municipalities said it will look at the government's report to see if principles found there align with its own, which it said include police governance and oversight, police service levels and policing costs.

"Fundamentally, we believe the creation of an Alberta provincial police service should be driven by the real public safety needs of the communities it will serve, rather than by political motivations," the statement read.


There are also those in southern Alberta who are on the fence, but have questions about the proposal.

The mayor of Brooks, John Petrie, said his city spoke with Shandro prior to Tuesday's announcement.

"But I don't think they could break down on dollar-wise what it would be to the local community here," he said.

A report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers said the initial cost of the plan would be roughly $366 million, followed by an annual cost of roughly $734 million, although it's not clear how much of that price tag would fall on the communities these detachments would be in.

Taber's mayor, Andrew Prokop, said he hasn’t decided if he’d prefer a new provincial police force, or to continue with the RCMP.

“There are many questions that are not completely answered, and more work to be done in the practicality of all areas," he said.

"I'm not saying yea or nay to either side, per se, but I’m looking at both aspects of the possibility."


For the RCMP's part, Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, commanding officer of the Alberta RCMP, said the details found in the UCP's proposed plan aren't dissimilar from the Mounties' own goals.

"The Alberta RCMP is future-focused and flexible, changing as the safety and security needs of Albertans change," Zablocki said in a statement issued Tuesday.

"Modernizing our force, leveraging technology and finding new ways of delivering our services more efficiently, combined with collaboration and input from our partners on all levels, drives how we adapt to the needs of the citizens we serve, and respond to modern-day threats and social factors within the province."

Zablocki pointed to the Community and Well-being Branch, stood up earlier in the year, as one example of the federal police force's evolution within Alberta.

Zablocki also said the RCMP has always been willing to work with the provincial government, which sets its budget and has oversight over its priority-setting.

"Open communication and consultations with community leaders; county and municipal governments; chiefs and councils; the Alberta Municipalities Association; the Rural Municipalities of Alberta Association; the Interim Police Advisory Board and Albertans have positioned the Alberta RCMP to continue responding and evolving as a police service," he said.

"I am grateful for our continued ability to collaborate and work together to address the needs of communities and citizens."

— With files from Quinn Keenan Top Stories

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