The last time Alberta had a provincial police force, it looked like these guys (Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta).

On Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney promised that Alberta municipalities policed by the Mounties won’t have to pay any more for a provincial force than they do now.

“We’re going to guarantee them that this model would not cost them one cent more,” the premier told a news conference on another topic. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Not that Mr. Kenney’s promises are a reliable guide to what actually happens when he gets his way, but this one seems particularly unlikely to be kept.

Still, as the high-pressure sales pitch from the premier shows, it’s increasingly obvious that creating an Alberta provincial police force is one of the highest priorities on Mr. Kenney’s to-do list. 

The question is why, and the answers, aren’t necessarily obvious. 

Any honest accounting of the cost of creating a provincial police force from the ground up is likely to show the project inspired by Stephen Harper’s 2001 Firewall Letter is certain to be massively expensive.

Ralph Klein, Alberta’s premier at the time Mr. Harper and a small group of Americanized right-wing academics at the University of Calgary penned the petulant and quasi-separatist manifesto, sensibly spiked the idea.

Mr. Harper, for his part, quickly dropped it when his political career led him to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2006, where he survived until 2015. 

But now that Canada’s natural governing party, the Liberals, are back in power in Ottawa and the former PM is the éminence grise of the Kenney Government, the Alberta beachhead of his dark vision for Canada, it has emerged again as a priority.

Stephen Harper, one of the authors of the notorious “Firewall Letter” of 2001 (Photo: Remy Steinegger, Creative Commons).

It’s possible a meaningful estimate of the likely cost of this project is contained in the $2-million report by PricewaterhouseCoopers commissioned by the Kenney Government and completed by the multinational consulting firm in April. 

We wouldn’t know about that, though, because the government is sitting on it, presumably to ensure the political campaign for the premier’s pet project can take place without its likely opponents having access to accurate information. 

We do know that Ottawa pays $112.4 million directly to the approximately $375 million cost of RCMP service now, in addition to another $40 million or so for vehicles and detachment offices. 

Whether Ottawa would be as forthcoming with that money for a provincial force that is certain to be highly controversial is another matter entirely. Nor is it clear what economies of scale enjoyed by the RCMP would be lost to a force in a single province of only 4.4 million people. 

Perhaps Mr. Kenney’s confidence can be explained by a belief Ottawa will continue to fork over the dough no matter what uniform Alberta’s provincial police wear.

The late Ralph Klein, premier of Alberta from 1992 to 2006 (Photo: Chuck Szmurlo, Creative Commons).

If so, it sounds like another high-risk bet, just like the $1.3 billion or more he gambled in 2020 on Donald Trump being re-elected President of the United States and allowing the Keystone XL Pipeline to be completed. 

In this case, he’d be betting Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives will somehow defy the odds and win the next federal election. That could happen, but it seems less promising than Mr. Trump’s chances of re-election when Mr. Kenney gave our money away to TC Energy Corp., whence it has disappeared. 

Someone is bound to say Mr. Kenney would like to derail the RCMP’s investigation of the shenanigans that took place in during his 2017 campaign to lead the UCP, which the federal force insists is still ongoing. 

This may be so, but it’s unlikely to be the motivation for this effort. The time frame is just too short. Anyway, it’s said here the RCMP investigation will never result in charges against the people who benefitted the most from the so-called Kamikaze Campaign and other rule-breaking in the service of Mr. Kenney’s candidacy.

More hints are found in the report of the so-called “Fair Deal” Panel, completed in May 2020 and released to the public in mid-June. 

Apparently lacking any better ideas, the panel just put Mr. Harper’s 2001 sovereignty-association screed into the microwave, gave it a couple of turns at low power, and — voilà! — served it up, barely warm.

Separatist-leaning Independent MLA Drew Barnes, a former member of the UCP Caucus and the so-called “Fair Deal” Panel (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The panel – which included separatist-leaning Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes, since expelled from the UCP Caucus, and Preston Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right – recommended the replacement of the RCMP with a provincial force as everyone expected from the get-go.

The arguments presented were sketchy, tendentious, often misleading, and delivered complete with right-wing dog-whistles.

One bugbear of the UCP base, gun-control laws, featured prominently in the UCP panel’s logic. “Many legitimate gun owners were also concerned about the RCMP’s heavy-handed enforcement of gun laws,” the report said. The problem, presumably, being that the law of the land is being enforced, not necessarily that the enforcement is heavy handed.

As ever, there has been constant dog-whistling about how this plan will put policing in the hands of real Albertans from Alberta communities, as the premier put it Friday, “where girls and boys can dream of become a police officer and serving in their community for the rest of their lives, a community that they understand.” We all know what this really means. 

And then there are those inconvenient activists. 

Albertans, the report said, felt “that the RCMP was too bureaucratic to respond to local needs, that the force’s habit of moving officers around the province or country hurt police effectiveness, and that the RCMP was unable or unwilling to confront activists who terrorize farmers.”

Preston Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right and another “Fair Deal” panelist (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Never mind that the bureaucracy referenced was almost certainly that inconvenient thing called due process, the Mounties haven’t moved officers around the country like they used to for decades, and activists don’t terrorize farmers, although some may criticize their treatment of animals and an Alberta rail line was once blocked for a few hours. 

The government’s spin on the issue was arguably closer to what it really has in mind in a news release published in October 2020 announcing the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct the transition study: RCMP members, it said, “are unable or unwilling to confront activists.”

The suggestion the real goal of forming a provincial police force unimpeded by Canada’s profound national commitment to due process and constitutional rights is to “confront activists” should trouble us all – particularly in light of UCP legislation severely restricting free speech and other forms of constitutionally protected protest that take place on nebulously defined “critical infrastructure.”

And with a governing political party that is obsessed with portraying protesters who leave chalk drawings on the sidewalks outside UCP MLAs’ offices as criminals, we can have a pretty good idea what our expensive new provincial police force will be concentrating on when they’re not enforcing Ottawa’s gun laws. 

As Scott Schmidt wrote in the Medicine Hat News way back in October 2020, “when all is said and done, just remember that Alberta’s provincial cops won’t be here to police Ottawa, they’ll be here to police you.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Since Mintz, Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s favorite economist has been arguing for some time that the O & G Royalties program fails to generate enough revenue. The program should be abolished in favor of a sales tax.

    While there is support for a sales tax in Alberta in some quarters, it will be political suicide for the UCP to implement it. However, I suspect that Kenney will use the need for a provincial police force and a provincial pension program and reason enough to implement one.

    Kenney will declare it a sales tax as a means to securing Alberta’s sovereignty. Asserting a nationalist temperament, a sales tax will be implemented and Kenney will declare Alberta is one more step on its way to freedom from Ottawa.

    The biggest problem with the firewall approach, as promoted by Harpo back into the day, is that it’s genuinely expensive for Alberta to go it alone for the sake of freeDUMB. And considering Kenney’s sociopathic hatred of Ottawa (re. the Liberals) he will not even go the route of a HST will Ottawa. (the least expensive approach) Rather, he will set up his own revenue collection bureau to collect the sales tax. (The Alberta FreeDUMB Tax) But why stop with just a sales tax? Kenney may even consider a provincial personal income tax and any number of levies to pay for his extravagant dreams.

    What will Kenney’s excuse be when his base lashes back at him? Declare Ottawa has failed Alberta by not handing over the $700 gazillion dollars owned since the founding of the Garden of Eden.

  2. What the head honcho of the UCP has for credibility, is what the chances of a rock being able to float has, when it is thrown onto a body of water. That is, zero. Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Ontario have had their own provincial police force for a very long time. Because of this, there is no added cost of training and hiring all these police officers in those parts of Canada. These provinces also have the R.C.M.P. Alberta did have its own provincial police force for a brief time in the early 1900s. Creating a new provincial police force for Alberta, and replacing the R.C.M.P with it, will cost money – a lot of money. Where will this money come from? Rural municipalities and Albertans will be paying for this. Furthermore, where will the existing R.C.M.P officers relocate to, if the UCP terminates their services here? The head honcho of the UCP is good at pulling the will over people’s eyes. He said there wouldn’t be any cuts to healthcare and education in the province of Alberta, and the UCP did make cuts to healthcare and education in Alberta, just as their role model Ralph Klein had done. These pretend conservatives and Reformers do not have the interests of the greater good of Alberta in mind. Peter Lougheed balked and spoke out against these pretend conservatives and Reformers, who thought that they were smarter than everyone else. The head honcho of the UCP and the UCP constantly think they can score brownie points by constantly attacking the federal government at every opportunity. The head honcho of the UCP was in the CPC, and what did he do that was of any benefit to Alberta and Canada? Nothing. It’s clear that the head honcho of the UCP cheated to get to the present position he is in. Don’t put it past him, because there was the robocalls shenanigans that the head honcho of the UCP had something to do with, when he was in the CPC party. The fact that a UCP MLA, Devinder Toor, was recently fined for election based misdeeds, just gives even more doubt as to the authenticity and validity of the UCP being a legitimately elected government. The R.C.M.P have been, and still possibly are, investigating the head honcho of the UCP and his rise to the throne of the UCP, and being the leader of Alberta. They can’t easily do that, if the R.C.M.P no longer exist in Alberta.

  3. Not one cent more. Oh, for sure it will not be one cent.

    “..where girls and boys can dream of become a police officer…” Shouldn’t the premier consult with Angus McBeath about this? He has big plans to turn a generation of Alberta boys into used car salesmen. Are we to believe that boys will have two career paths, and girls one in this brave new Alberta?

    Oh, activists. Now we’re talking.

  4. I fear that Calgary and the Hinterland base of the UCP would love to be in control of “our” police. For me, it would the last straw and I would move. Health Care, education, elder care, ambulance service -all in shambles, and then the Kenney Gestapo? NO!

  5. Jason Kenney’s private army — oops, sorry, I meant Alberta Provincial Police — may be inevitable, due to developments at the national level. There has been a great deal of discussion in Ottawa & are HD the country around the role of the RCMP and whether it might be time to put an end to the “contract policing” model, wherein the force is under contract to the provinces in those without their own provincial police services.

    Here are a couple of relevant news stories on the topic:

    This discussion is ongoing in the context of the RCMP’s known issues with racism & sexism, as well as the whole #defundthepolice movement. Advocates for ending the RCMP’s contract policing mandate argue that it will improve morale and training, and allow the force to focus better on national public security priorities such as white-collar and organized crime, money laundering and fraud, human trafficking, and so on.

    Let’s review which provinces have provincial police:
    – Ontario: the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), which force Doug Ford infamously tried to put a crony of his at the head of, but was kiboshed after public outcry — something that still carries weight in parts of Canada outside of Alberta
    – Québec: le Sûreté du Québec (SQ)
    – Newfoundland & Labrador: the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, which polices some parts of the province, with the RCMP covering the rest

    But if the RCMP is ordered out of contract policing in the remaining seven provinces, Alberta — along with the rest — will be forced to set up its own system for policing in rural areas and those smaller cities — like Red Deer, Grande Prairie and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo — that don’t have their own municipal police services. Whether this happens during the current UCP government’s mandate, or after the next election, is uncertain, although I tend to think it will happen later rather then sooner.

  6. Yeah, if you believe Kenney’s assurances on this, I have some valuable swamp land in northern Alberta to sell.

    Kenney’s record in offloading cost to municipalities or sticking it to them is not good so far. They already seem to have been an easy target in the past, when he has had trouble balancing his budgets. I suspect if somehow he manages to get a provincial police force approved, when the hard budget realities hit, this promise will be forgotten faster than you can say grassroots guarantee. Surely, everyone has learned by now how Kenney’s commitments are fairly disposable.

    However, all this talk about a provincial police force being drummed up now by Kenney and his UCP PR gang, is like a thunderstorm gathering on the horizon. Prepare for another big downpour of distraction sometime in the near future. Kenney’s record so far is not good and he needs all the distractions that he and his communications people can manufacture to take our minds off that.

  7. I know what he’s up to. Not only does he have a bone to pick with the RCMP for investigating him , I learned a good lesson from an 86 year old former university professor from Germany in 2000. He told me about Hitler creating his SS German Police force, that he had complete control over, and how they terrorized the nation. Anyone who had ever said anything bad about Hitler was usually shot, like his best friend who lived next door.

    The family weren’t Jews but his father, a high school teacher, had been pointing out what Hitler was doing to the people of Germany . His family watched while the mother, father, sister and brother were all lined up in front of their house and shot.

    His father had all his family leave in the middle of the night and they ended up in Switzerland where they remained until coming to Canada in 1952.

  8. “…it’s said here the RCMP investigation will never result in charges against the people who benefitted the most from the so-called Kamikaze Campaign and other rule-breaking in the service of Mr. Kenney’s candidacy.”
    Can you expand upon this a bit?

  9. This is just yet another ‘shiny’ object designed to turn voters attention away from Kenney’s abysmal performance.

    It is an attempt to curry favour with rural voters. But basically it is an insult to the intelligence of those rural supporters.

    Bottom line is that we in Alberta could have increased RCMP presence in rural areas. All it takes is for the Kenney Gov’t to agree to an increased funding level for additional staff.

    If they were serious we would see the numbers. They costs would be open to scrutiny.

  10. I am glad you have raised the “Americanized right-wing academics at the University of Calgary”. I am reminded of Marci McDonald’s 2004 Walrus article, “The Man behind Stephen Harper”. It remains a relevant discussion about the so-called Calgary School, and how one or two of its academics were educated in the US by people with ties to Ronald Reagan and the post-Nixon Republican reformation of the late 1970s. In addition, Tom Flanagan attended the Free University of Berlin, a bulwark in the cultural cold war. I do not know where I am going with this, it is easy to fall into CIA-UFO-New World Order-Sandwich Board on the Chest-The End Is Nigh paranoia, but when I think about Flanagan’s Aboriginal orthodoxy, i.e., the diminishment of land title, which has been used (and continues to be used in Alberta) as a counter strategy against Aboriginal Rights and Title, I do appreciate how Harper’s dark vision of Canada remains very much a part of Kenney’s political stratagem. And I use the terms political stratagem rather loosely because Kenney seems to be defying logic at every turn of the closeted screw. Given what Kenney has achieved with the economy, municipalities, COVID, education, etc, I am not holding my breath on the policing front.

  11. While I was perusing Twitter the other day, I was wondering what Brett Wilson was up to. Since his last bizarre missive that found its way into the editorial pages of the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal, the one where he made the case that Premier Crying & Screaming was having it tough and everyone should get off his back. Give the guy a break; Kenney’s working hard for Alberta. I went to Wilson’s Twitter channel to see what he was going off about, and I found a lot of goodies.

    During the re-born Calgary Stampede, during the Greatest Summer in the Whole Galaxy, Wilson was waxing on about how great the Stampede was and how generous Jason Nixon, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, was in giving him free tickets to some event. I’m not sure if any ethical lines were crossed when a minister of the environment gifts something to a player in the O & G industry, but Wilson had no problem bragging about it. Whatever.

    As I scanned his tweets, I noticed that Wilson was tweeting and re-tweeting a lot of content in regard to Erin O’Toole’s stellar leadership credentials and that he was the perfect leader to mend the fissures of division in Canadian society. In light of this revelation, I guess that O’Toole is a regular MLK.

    And the tweets defending the CPC continued, with Wilson considering O’Toole’s free fall among his own voters, pretty much begged CPC voters to help stop the Liberals. Please, please, please…we must stop PMJT before all is lost.

    Of course the tweet in response to Rachel Notley’s interview in the Calgary Herald was wildly hilarious. While reading it, I thought of some day-drinker railing on and on about an ex-wife. Notley would have us locked down FOREVER.

    After eating all this popcorn, I gotta go on a diet.

  12. Perhaps he is going to hire them on Monday and then give them a five percent pay cut the following week.

  13. a provincial police force would report to the provincial government and thus to Kenny. How wonderful. You then control the law in the province. given the police force would be from the ground up Kenny could then select the type of people who ran the police force and thus who the rank and file become. Its not about the money. Its about the power and control Kenny believes he will have. How easy it will be to hide things. How easy it would be to make life difficult for your opposition. Now Ontario and Quebec have provincial police forces, but they’ve been there for a very long time, when it made sense, but Alberta doing it in this day and age, not so much.

    If Kenny believes Ottawa will continue to pay for his toys, not so much. O’Toole being elected P.M., not so much. Kenny has started his whine about them not being treated as well as Quebec, but really who believes him. As if Kenny actually cared about day care for kids. The only thing in my opinion Kenny cares for in this life is himself and his ability to hang onto power and control as much of the province as possible, he is one weird guy.

  14. Ah! Our own little Gestapo. This takes me back to the good old days in the 1960s when every medium sized Alberta town had its own two or three man police force. Of course these worthies knew who the good people were and ignored them while stepping hard on the less worthy. Translation: if you or your family was rich, or well connected you had a “never go to jail” card and if you were poor, looked odd, or god help you, indigenous, you were automatically guilty. And if labour got uppity, why there were the “special constables” deputized to beat, and in the case of the On To Ottawa march, murder, strikers and the unemployed.

  15. “…as the premier put it Friday, “where girls and boys can dream of become a police officer and serving in their community for the rest of their lives, a community that they understand.” We all know what this really means. ”

    Sadly yes, I think we all do. Will this new police force be called Kenney’s Keystone Kops (KKK)?

  16. In order to keep his promise of his provincial police force not costing any more, any increased cost would have to come from the general provincial budget.

    I have it in my head that a few weeks ago Jason Kenney was musing in front of a microphone that his promised plebiscite on a provincial police force might only involve people in rural Alberta, suggesting that it made sense since they would be the ones affected by the change. (And, of course, this would eliminate from the vote base most of his detractors)

    If we combine these two statements, it would appear people living in cities that have a municipal police force will have to pay the extra costs of a provincial police force without having had a vote in its creation. It is starting to sound like taxation without representation.

    1. That CBC article points out that rural municipal politicians don’t WANT to dump the RCMP. Also, the city of Red Deer looked at establishing a city police force–and decided not to. Why? It would have cost way more than paying for RCMP services.

      Expect Kenney and Madu to ignore all “No, we don’t want this” messages.

  17. It’s one thing to say, another thing entirely to do it. An Alberta provincial police force might actually be a good thing for the province, but anybody who thinks it would be less expensive than the RCMP is in for a rude awakening. If anything an APP would be vastly more expensive, and require a reevaluation of Alberta’s finances and attitudes towards taxation, neither of which anybody in the UCP brain trust is willing to discuss publicly.

    I, for one, have always been baffled by the lack of a provincial police force in Alberta. I think it would do wonders for rural crime – or at least the fears around rural crime. As for the alarmist “Kenney’s gestapo”, please be reminded that while the separation between the leadership of an APP and the premier’s office would essentially be razor thin, with the force itself likely reporting directly to legislature through the minister for justice and attorney general, the force would be required by law and custom to have more than a semblance of independence from government interference for it to have any authority.

    Also, we should be cautious not to be as short sighted as the current government’s strategists, who only seem to think in terms of what it takes to win the next news cycle, the next debate, the next election, of securing their base, not of the logical consequences of the policies they promote to achieve those ends.

    1. Thom: I would remind you that when we had an Alberta Provincial Police force it was very much under the direct supervision of Cabinet and was used to break strikes, harass ethnic bootleggers, but never the Anglo-Saxon ones serving the wealthy in Edmonton and Calgary. And of course the APP was at the beck and call of anyone needing a labour organizer either tuned up or deported. The situation in Quebec and Newfoundland right up until the 1980s were essentially the same.

      BTW, how would adopting a much more expensive APP put more boots on the ground in rural Alberta? Why not spend that extra money on more cost-effective RCMP? Or how about getting at the root of the problem an decriminalize drugs and supply the addicts on prescription like Switzerland does? That would address the property thefts driven by addiction (and bankrupt the organized criminals that make all the profits).

  18. You would think these reformers would be smart enough to figure out that if they need more police officers to support rural Albertans they could use the sheriff department that former conservatives created instead of kicking out the RCMP and creating a massive expense for Alberta taxpayers. Don’t forget Ottawa pays to train the RCMP , pays for their equipment and 30% of their wage costs for the provinces. This would force taxpayers to pay the total shot. Kenney must think we are damn fools if he thinks he can get away with that.

    1. ALAN K. SPILLER: You are correct. Why are people still foolish enough to believe the lies these pretend conservatives tell them?

  19. The RCMP are a bloated, lazy, waste of money. We need police and prisons with addiction counselors to protect us from this huge increase of crazy violent meth addicts created by the NDPs insane free injection sites. Madness! The RCMP won’t even arrest them. Making themselves judges. I see pictures of crimes, some solved by the victims on Facebook weekly. The RCMP always say the thieves are gone and they’re not going to bother looking. Another point mentioned is we should have Albertans policing ourselves, not people from all over.

  20. The provincial police issue (a grand distraction for doing absolutely nothing about soaring rates of new Covid infections) has taken on a life of its own, thanks to a fatal shooting on a rural property near Penhold. The facts have changed from story to story, a bewildering number of times, capped off with a stirring interview by Licia Corbella in which the homeowner lamented a lack of pepper spray. The premier himself stepped in to name-call the deceased and criticise the police response time. Now a spokesperson for the National Police Federation has gotten involved, stating that a 10-minute response time in a rural area is not unreasonable. On and on it goes.

    Not a single word from our elected provincial officials about the fourth wave of Covid raging like a wildfire in our province. How many people will die this time? Our government is too busy tilting at windmills to notice or care. Not a peep. They are Marie and the Antoinettes.

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