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RCMP will still be around to kick around: CAO

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There’s no need to dial 911, the RCMP will continue to maintain the law because Ottawa’s threat to withdraw police service from B.C. if a contract isn’t signed by November is just a negotiating tactic.

Chief administrator Jim Rule told Maple Ridge council Monday that such statements are all part of negotiations as the province gets ready to sign a new 20-year deal with the RCMP.

“From our perspective, we’re well served by the RCMP.”

The district instead should focus on its own detachment and let the senior governments sort it out, he added.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond surprised mayors and councillors at UBCM last week when she announced that talks with Ottawa have broken off after four years.

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Teows has since said that the federal government will begin withdrawing RCMP services by 2014 if B.C. doesn’t sign the contract terms accepted by Saskatchewan and Alberta. Teows gave a deadline of Nov. 30.

The B.C. government needs to present a more specific proposal to bridge the gap on negotiating a new 20-year contract for RCMP services, MP James Moore added Friday.

Municipal leaders rejected that view, voting unanimously for an emergency resolution calling on the federal government to return to the bargaining table.

If there is no deal, B.C. would have to reconstruct a provincial police service that was disbanded in 1950. The RCMP has contracts with most B.C. municipalities to provide police service, and local governments are concerned about rising costs for one of their biggest budget items.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie wants to continue with the RCMP.

“I hope we stay the course with the type of policing we have and hope we improve it.”

The federal government’s statement is “nothing more than sabre rattling.

“I think we’ve got a very good relationship with the RCMP.”

There always will be issues, but that will happen with any police force, Coun. Craig Speirs added.

Cost for the municipality would climb if there were no longer the RCMP, said Coun. Al Hogarth.

Currently, policing costs Maple Ridge about $16 million a year.

“I really think that what we have here today in being able to talk to the RCMP, to have them around this table, is substantially different than what it was a decade ago.

He also asked, what if the B.C. government called Ottawa’s bluff and cancelled the deal? Where would the RCMP place its 6,000 officers based in B.C.?

“I find it absolutely incomprehensible of them, kind of giving us an ultimatum like that. I think we have to get some response from Ottawa,” Hogarth said.

Councillors also discussed the government’s decision to create a municipal auditor-general to oversee municipal finances.

Ashlie supported the idea, but said it should be extended to include school boards, as well.

“I’m good with this. I’d like any sort of extra eyes.”

Speirs said the government could already be watering down the concept and said municipalities should be able to access the auditor-general on a voluntary basis. That in particular could help smaller municipalities with cost limits.

“Having it top down – it’s nothing more than trying to access our taxation base,” for the government’s friends, he added.

“We have to balance our [budget] every year and in a transparent fashion, unlike the provincial government.”

Many delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last week in Vancouver said the planned watchdog on waste would itself be a waste of money. But after several suggestions to restrict the scope of the auditor’s work, delegates approved a motion to continue working with the provincial government on the project.

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