Provincial and federal justice ministers Shirley Bond and Vic Toews at RCMP contract signing ceremony in March.

Provincial and federal justice ministers Shirley Bond and Vic Toews at RCMP contract signing ceremony in March.

Holdout cities begin to fall in line on RCMP contract

Burnaby, Coquitlam, North Vancouver City will meet provincial deadline to avoid penalty

Burnaby and North Vancouver City will join Coquitlam in signing a controversial new 20-year RCMP contract despite deep concerns among the holdout cities about the costs that will flow to them.

A few remaining cities, including Richmond, Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver District, are still weighing whether to sign ahead of a provincially imposed end-of-June deadline, which has already been extended twice.

The provincial government has warned it will take responsibility for policing cities that don’t sign by July and charge them full costs, without the 10 per cent federal subsidy that applies to RCMP bills.

“It’s not a flip at all,” North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto said of his council’s expected reversal on June 25, adding cities can still exercise a two-year opt-out clause in the contract.

His city will take the next year or so to weigh the true costs of the RCMP contract against the potential to switch to an alternate municipal model.

One policing study will be mounted by the North Vancouver muncipalities, looking at the potential to partner with West Vancouver’s municipal police force, or form their own.

“The study might even look at what a regional policing model might look like,” Mussatto said.

Another study will examine much the same issues for Richmond, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, possibly looking at links to the municipal forces in New Westminster, Port Moody and Delta.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said his council hasn’t yet decided what to do.

He said the province has warned they face significant penalties if they don’t sign, but the cities also believe they will be locked in to higher contract costs if they do sign.

“We’re in a very difficult spot where our city loses no matter what,” Brodie said.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said this week his council is signing under duress.

Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who represented B.C. cities in the contract talks and was repeatedly criticized by Corrigan for the outcome, stressed he is not declaring victory over the Burnaby mayor.

“This isn’t about me winning or losing a battle with any other mayor,” Fassbender said, adding it’s a wise decision for holdout councils to sign and then take their time deciding whether to opt out of RCMP service.

“Why would they have their taxpayers pay more for whatever amount of time it would be to simply make a point? They can make the point by doing a study then making a decision.”

Meanwhile, he said, all cities can work through new contract management committees that have already begun meeting to try to make the new deal work and increase accountability of the Mounties.

All the mayors have repeatedly said they do not take issue with the service provided by RCMP officers in their cities, but the costs and accountability of the force.

Another major concern are potential costs stemming from the new $1.2-billion RCMP E Division headquarters in north Surrey.