Soundbites, smiles and shaking hands may have been the order of the day when B.C.'s Justice Minister Shirley Bond officially signed the new 20-year RCMP federal contract last week.
But Richmond's mayor is far from happy with the deal landing this week into the laps of the province's municipalities for their individual approval.
Although Bond and her federal counterpart Vic Toews completed the ceremonial formality for the cameras, cities such as Richmond still have the unattractive option of knocking back the contract and going it alone with a municipal force.
In the fall of 2011, when contract negotiations were faltering at a national level, Mayor Malcolm Brodie had a litany of serious concerns with the RCMP deal on the table.
For Brodie, after poring over the new contract, little has changed in six months. And the mayor is still far from enamoured by:
- The length of the 20-year deal;
- The prospect of increasing costs with no control from the city;
- The lack of accountability for the costs of running the RCMP's much vaunted special integrated teams;
- Escalating cost of the new B.C. RCMP headquarters in Surrey.
"There's a number of areas we're looking at right now," Brodie said Monday.
"We're still concerned about the 20-year term, for the reason that I don't think anyone else (in any business) has a 20-year term, particularly one that has been through a few rough spots.
"Those costs, we fully expect those costs to increase, adding to our burden."
Brodie was particularly worried about the lack of concern over the spiralling cost of creating the new provincial RCMP E-Division HQ in Surrey's Green Timbers site.
"The costs there have massively escalated yet no one seems to know where these costs will end," he added.
"We have to find out how much it's going to cost."
Brodie said senior city staff will endeavour this week to get answers to all of the above from the Solicitor General's office, before reporting their findings back to council as soon as possible.
"The contract has to be signed by the end of April, but I don't think that's a hard and fast date," said the mayor.
If the city does not get the answers it wants, however, Brodie isn't sure what options Richmond will have if it comes to severing RCMP ties - an option that is open to any city unwilling to sign the contract.
"We will have to assess things in terms of accepting or rejecting the document. But our options are pretty limited outside of this (contract)," Brodie admitted.
It was hoped the new deal would be the beginning of a new relationship between the Mounties and the cities, handing the municipalities more control over spiralling police costs.
Cities will also get a two-year opt out option going forward and a review of the contract is promised every five years, allowing it to be re-opened.
"We are creating far more transparency and accountability in policing," Bond said at a signing ceremony with Toews at the Surrey detachment, the country's largest.
"For the first time we will have the ability to question costs, to look at breakdowns of costs, to say, 'Do we really need to have those kinds of things take place in British Columbia?'"
Toews said it's also in Ottawa's interest to rein in costs. Officials say the deal finally puts cities in a better position to control costs and plan for them, rather than simply pay whatever bills are sent to them.
At the heart of the deal is a new B.C. local government contract management committee with 10 reps from cities who are promised much more hands-on control of spending changes, instead of just an advisory role.
It's still unclear, however, whether cities can ultimately refuse to pay costs they object to.
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