St. ALBERT – A provincial plan to dump the RCMP and replace it with a provincial police force could mean a whopping property tax increase for residents of St. Albert and other smaller Alberta communities, the MLA representing most of the city warned in a statement yesterday. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is determined to bring in a provincial police force as part of her United Conservative Party Government’s sovereignty-association agenda (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Plenty of Albertans suspected that already, but Premier Danielle Smith’s government has been determined to press ahead with the scheme anyway because it’s a key part of its sovereignty-association agenda that seems to have been ginned up at least in part as a way to attack Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Government in Ottawa.

But by pointing out that that a plan launched in Surrey, British Columbia, in 2018 to replace the Mounties with a municipal force would have resulted in the need for property taxes in the Vancouver-area bedroom city to rise by 55 per cent, Ms. Renaud pulled the fire alarm on one of the UCP’s signature policies. 

Officials in the B.C. city concluded that when fully implemented a municipal police force would have cost $37.2 million more each year than keeping the RCMP – an increase of 21.3 per cent that would have led to the 55-per-cent property tax increase. 

“In communities like St. Albert,” Ms. Renaud’s news release yesterday noted, “a 55 per cent tax increase would mean an extra $2,784 per year for the average household.”

MLA Renaud, a New Democrat, certainly didn’t say this, but as a resident of St. Albert I can tell you this is a community where the prospect of a property tax increase of more than two or three per cent was enough to have city council seriously consider slashing the public library’s budget by a third. 

If the NDP forms government, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley vows to scuttle the UCP’s provincial police force plan and keep the RCMP instead (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I reckon that the possibility of a 55-per-cent property tax increase for any reason in this suburban city of 70,000 northwest of Edmonton would result in something approaching mass hysteria, especially in light of the high anxiety already being experienced by many homeowners because of rising interest rates.

In fairness, the plan accepted by Surrey City Council in 2018 to replace the RCMP would have been a much more complicated transition than in St. Albert. With a population approaching 600,000, B.C.’s second-largest city is more than eight times as big as St. Albert. And the transition was already under way with some Surrey Police Service officers hired. 

Several years of news coverage about the project, moreover, makes it pretty clear the B.C. city has long been divided about the best way to ensure effective police services, with strikingly different narratives told by each side. 

The plan was championed by a previous mayor. The current mayor campaigned against it and won in the Oct. 15, 2022, B.C. municipal election. Surrey’s new city council voted in November to scuttle the plan and stick with the Mounties. 

Meanwhile, in quiet little St. Albert, the only person I’ve ever personally heard advocate dumping the RCMP was an Edmonton Police Service officer who lived here, along with quite a few of his colleagues, who had some spicy observations about the Mounties that may not have been entirely fair. 

Morinville-St. Albert MLA Dale Nally (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Be that as it may, his most substantive argument ran along the same lines as those of the advocates of a Surrey force: RCMP services may cost less, but you don’t get quite as many cops. 

Of course, unlike Surrey, vandalism to a bus shelter is a major crime in St. Albert.

“The UCP likes to point to Surrey as an example for scrapping the RCMP,” Ms. Renaud said. “But we can see from this real-world example that it will cost Albertans more at a time when they’re already struggling to make ends meet.”

She noted that “Albertans are already paying more for utilities, car insurance, tuition, and student debt under the UCP.”

An Alberta Government report in 2021 found transitioning to an Alberta provincial police force alone would cost $366 million. Plus, Alberta would be on the hook for another $170 million a year in annual funding Ottawa provides for the RCMP. 

The Alberta report also made the claim – which Ms. Renaud dismisses as “dubious” – that it would cost $7 million a year less to administer a provincial service.

However, said Ms. Renaud’s news release, “if the example of Surrey is applied to Alberta, a 21 per cent increase to the cost of operating a provincial police force means Albertans would have to pay an extra $157 million per year for the police force, along with the transition costs and loss of federal funding.”

Ms. Renaud also noted that in 2020 Red Deer officials concluded that replacing the RCMP with a municipal force would cost that Central Alberta city of about 100,000 an additional $13.5 million a year, excluding start-up costs. Red Deer City Council rejected the plan because of its potential impact on property taxes.

It will be interesting to see what Dale Nally, the United Conservative Party MLA for Morinville-St. Albert, has to say about this, if anything. 

Given the sensitivity about tax increases in this place, he might be wise to steer clear of the topic entirely.

The NDP, led by Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley, has vowed to drop the provincial police scheme if elected. 

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13 Comments

  1. I suspect that Danielle Smith will do something bat-shite crazy, like legislate the creation of an Alberta state militia. Yes, a state militia. Of course, getting her base on the pay roll of something like a militia will be hilarious, because there will be no other requirement for membership other than loyalty. As for law enforcement, the law, especially Ottawa’s, is an ass will likely be the mantra of this burly bunch of heroes. Oh, and FreeDUMB.

    So what will the the badge of the Alberta state militia represent? Who knows? But don’t be surprised if the result is an overly officious, self-righteous, bunch of blow hards imposing their questionable doctrine willy-nilly on everyone. Shut down and arrest the operators of family-planning centres? Let thy Will be done.

    Let the lunacy begin.

  2. The same people who were upset about the carbon tax in the 2019 election should probably give their heads a shake about an extra $2,784 tax bill per property annually for a provincial police force, but will they?

    They’re probably counting on DaniBucks™ to cover the bill for the first year. After that, the zealots will need to find extra shifts at work and new part-time jobs. They might even have to give up that tropical winter holiday. There’s always GoFu**Me. After all, cancer before stage four and sovereignty-association aren’t free.

  3. Funny how Smith uses the bull in the china shop approach rather than Kenney giving people the choice. It all boils down to the UCP throwing away massive amounts of money on their pet projects rather than what Albertans really need.

  4. Why the nerve! Expecting the resident of St Albert to pay for their policing! Well here’s a news flash; if St Albert was in Ontario, guess what, they would have to pay for the policing services of the OPP. I find it galling that people in Alberta, the richest province in Canada, expect the taxpayers in the rest of the country to subsidize the policing they receive from the RCMP. It is hight time the British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan stopped freeloading and started paying their fair share.

    1. Big Mike: Three provinces, being Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario, have had a provincial police force for a very long time. The cost factor is different. It’s akin to someone who has a home, and their mortgage is paid off. There still are costs associated with owning the home, but it’s far less than it would be if the mortgage wasn’t paid off. With Alberta, there is much more costs for getting a provincial police force. It is met with derision from rural municipal leaders. They don’t have the ability to cover the astronomical costs, which are at least $1 billion to start with. The property taxes these municipalities have to pay under the UCP, have gone up more as it is. It doesn’t need to be worse. At one point, Alberta did have a provincial police force, but it was deemed unnecessary, and was scrapped. If other provinces have their own provincial police force, why can’t Alberta? It’s because the circumstances make it unfeasible.

    2. Big Mike. I appreciate your comment but it seems to me there is a flaw in your argument. Are you saying that if Ontario has decided to subsidize (pay extra) for their own provincial police force then we have to also?

      No – here’s the way it works. You do what you want to do and we do what we want to do. I’m not in favour of creating another police force, the ones we have are bad enough…

  5. Smith’s plans to replace the RCMP with a provincial police force are like cutting off your nose to spite your face. So, she really doesn’t like the Federal government – we get that, but the RCMP have been around for over a century throughout many different Federal governments. They are certainly more than just a reflection of who is currently in power in Ottawa. It is also particularly interesting that Surrey is now backtracking on getting rid of the RCMP.

    Perhaps the $100 a month that some people are receiving (though not everyone earning under the $180,000 limit is getting this – I would be very interested to know how many like me are not getting it) will help cover part of this cost. However, at over $2,700 a year that six months of $100 sure will not go very far.

    I suppose Smith can afford to talk about such grandiose plans, but of course it would be all Albertans who would end up paying for this sort of thing.

  6. I am reminded of a (possibly apocryphal) story about some isolated small tribe somewhere I heard many years ago. The story went, they elect their leaders, but you are not allowed to nominate yourself. As soon as a person is nominated, they are immediately placed under guard. If they are elected, all off their assets are confiscated, and for the duration of their term they are forbidden to own anything, (tough to bribe someone who can’t own things). At the end of their term, if the village prospered, the departing officials are given back all of their wealth with a hefty bonus, if not, they are given back less of their wealth.

    I have tried, but can’t imagine a way to implement something like this in Canada. It’s too bad though, would be fantastic to have some accountability to our elected officials. Under FPTP, “accountability” means “if you don’t like it, vote me out in 4 years, oh by the way in 4 years you’ll be choosing between me and someone as bad or worse so have fun with that you buncha rubes, now stand aside while your betters handle all those hard things you don’t want to fret your pretty little heads about.”

  7. We will be paying for the very pricey shenanigans from the UCP for many years to come. The same type of thing was happening from the Alberta PCs for a very long time, when they ceased to do the great things that Peter Lougheed did. When you get abysmal oil royalty rates, that lose $575 billion, leave Albertans having to pay a gigantic tab of $260 billion to take care of damages that the oil companies in Alberta were allowed to neglect for a long time, have the worst corporate tax rates, that lose billions of dollars more, and throw away millions and billions of dollars on numerous boondoggles of epic proportions, this doesn’t leave Alberta with much revenue. The results of this include crippling austerity, and municipal tax increases. Municipal leaders then get blamed for having to put in municipal tax hikes. Where is the sense in this?

  8. It seems like the UCP wants to have something like a police state, where no one can ever question them. They want absolute power, complete control and total submission. Where will these R.C.M.P officers in Alberta relocate to? They have families and homes here. These pseudo conservatives and Reformers don’t create jobs, they only destroy them. It’s not a concern to them. Why people are fooled by them so easily is mind boggling.

  9. I am a refugee from a police force concocted for partisan political reasons. That time, it was a plan to create the Durham Regional Police to replace the OPP and, in the minds of rejects from other municipal forces which Durham police was made from (including the dreaded York Regional Police), also to replace the RCMP which, in this confusion of forces, fancied itself the narcotics and vice experts as well.

    The area in question happens to be recently in the news as Ontario’s lone Green MPP (from southwest Ontario) today demands an investigation into land purchases that look and smell like Conservative crony corruption while the D’ohFo’s dismissing of Ontario’s green belt system has revived protests in what was known in my day as the mass rural expropriations for the Pickering Airport in the late 1960s.

    The airport was never built and an anomalous block of Nº1 farmland survived the urbanization of the Hogtown megalopolis which has surrounded the government-owned block for nearly fifty years. The bucolic area was settled in the late 1780s and contains several surviving towns (some vanished completely during the cholera pandemic in the 1840s which, BTW, flushed the last of my Scottish ancestors from Islay into the slums of Glaswegian slums, thence to Nova Scotia and Upper Canada, two brothers apiece), one of which is my hometown of Whitevale, est. 1828.

    The Pickering Airport policy was very unpopular among us low-population-density rural few—all except the oldest farmers who’d inherited their land from great-great-great…grandfathers, but whose children had abandoned farming for factory jobs ten miles south on the polluted shores of Lake Ontario, not far from the then-largest nuclear power plant in the world (in Pickering where I went to, then quit high school): too old to farm and nobody to hand the land to, they were happy to accept the government’s first offer. By the time the policy became public, the government sleazily argued that it was too late to stop because so many of these low-hanging prospects had already been purchased. Hundreds of beautiful old farmhouses were vacated, some reoccupied by the new back-to-the-land hippies who, like my dad, rented their homes from the North Pickering Housing Authority. Cattle and mixed-crop farming were entirely replaced by contract corn monocropping, the cow sheds and hay barns standing unused and ripe for stripping for the then-fashionable interior decoration use of weathered white pine barn-board. For these reasons, the Authority decided a new police force was necessary. For that reason, I got tired of getting shook down and roughed up for simply walking along the concession road I’d done since childhood.

    Bad policy comes from insider corruption and not from parties composed of ordinary citizens. That’s what probably happened in Surrey, too (which is a huge and complex city with many complex problems related to fast growth and a tired cabal which had dominated all levels of government for decades—until that cabal was recently methodically disassembled at every levers of government).

    It’s a shame that public money is wasted in the massaging of ulterior interests—nowadays the ginning of division before the presumed conquest by these extra-special interests—, and people are obviously so sick of it that they’ll accept the loss whatever “development expenditures” has been wasted thus far in order to staunch further throwing of good money after bad. It’s a harbinger of change which is making itself felt all over Canada: BC elected its first NDP Premier to win two elections, back-to-back; in 2015, Alberta elected its first NDP Premier, ever, and it sure looks, for the same reason— disassembling of chronic crony corruptions—that they’ll elect the second NDP government at the first opportunity. The ‘stand-your-ground,’ ‘open-carry,’ ‘second-amended-penis-envy’ types have been working on this for a long time (Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer might have not have known, but armed ‘spectators’ in the legislative gallery probably hinted that something was up). These guys want to be police but not take orders from “Ottawa”—and maybe from anybody…

    But since Alberta’s furthering-right is still in control—for a little more yet—it’s a galling sight to see its futile spending, trying to extend the end times. It’s public money, after all.

    The bulldozers can be heard, now all around the cemetery where I dug my dad’s grave and buried him 19 years ago. He’s done cursing the Ontario Conservatives, and even if he could right now, he probably wouldn’t. I can’t say the same for my ex who’s buried just a few dozen yards away. But after half a century, the long-game crony speculators are probably surprised to see old “People Over Planes” protest signs dotted amongst the growing numbers of marchers against destruction of this last area of rural land in the sprawling Hogtown area. They musta thought that those kinds of subversives had all left for the West Coast—like me.

    I shan’t go back. But I’m proud of those protesters—and confident that despite the D’ohFo’s recent majority win, it looks like the same kind of dead-cat-bounce we’re seeing among the neo-right parties, now all in their throes.

  10. Or it could cost $10k or zero extra. What does it cost Edmonton? Maybe a deal can be made? And yes, just another politicking big government type looking to make hay on fear. She should be embarrassed. You have to pay for services, they aren’t just free mana from Ottawa. If we are getting the service from Ottawa you should pay less taxes. That’s how a fair exchange looks.

  11. While those of us that live in Alberta tremble in fear over the prospect of a Daniellezebub private army — oh, sorry, *cough-cough*, I meant to say Alberta provincial police force — in the rest of the country, many serious & credible people, many of whom are from the progressive left side of the political spectrum & adherents of such movements as #DefundThePolice & #BlackLivesMatter, are calling for a national rethink of the role of the RCMP. Witness, for example, today’s Editorial Board column in the Toronto Star: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2023/01/21/rethinking-how-the-rcmp-delivers-policing.html.

    Why doesn’t anyone in Alberta seem to be talking about this issue from that perspective?

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