29 per cent of our tax bill goes to policing
By Paul J. Henderson, The Times
Chilliwack is sick and tired of the exorbitant and unsustainable cost of policing and the city doesn't want to take it anymore.
At the last meeting, city council directed Mayor Sharon Gaetz to draft a letter to federal and provincial representatives on the topic of "the rapidly increasing cost of RCMP police services and the affordability of these services in the future . . . and the accountability of the RCMP to local governments for the delivery of police services at the local level."
Of residents' municipal tax bills, 29 per cent goes to pay for policing costs and it's even worse in other communities.
"[Surrey Mayor] Diane Watts has more RCMP officers than Saskatchewan and P.E.I. combined," Gaetz told the Times. "That costs her close to half of her budget--47 per cent."
Municipalities with populations over 5,000 pay 90 per cent of the cost of policing, even when it comes to integrated teams--such as the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team--that do not necessarily provide services to some communities very often.
At the October Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, members endorsed a resolution to send letters to local MPs, federal Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and federal Treasury Board president Stockwell Day.
Current contracts that define roles, responsibilities and levels of government funding are set to expire March 31, 2012.
Policing costs are rising because of more complicated crimes and higher standards required by the courts, but the other issue is RCMP accountability to those that pay the bills. As provincial governments, Saskatchewan and P.E.I., for example, have a say in negotiations regarding RCMP contracts even though they have less officers than Surrey, which has no voice.
"We just want to make sure our voice is heard," Gaetz said. "We have a really great working relationship with our RCMP; other communities struggle with having their voices heard."
Eight cents of every tax dollar paid is municipal while other levels get 92 per cent, yet cities pay the vast majority of policing costs-- something that doesn't make sense to Gaetz.
"There is a lot of angst from some of the [UBCM] members in particular feeling that we can't afford it anymore," she said. "And any time we put up taxes to pay for it we then get some sort of Canadian Taxpayers Federation or Canadian Federation of Independent Business response; we get walloped by them saying our costs are out of control."
As for the suggestion that a B.C. police force should be formed or Chilliwack adopt a municipal force, Gaetz said she has never seen a business case that found those options would be less expensive.