Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Millions to be saved on policing

  • Print
tim Smith / Brandon Sun archives
Brandon Police Service conducting Check Stops in 2012

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

tim Smith / Brandon Sun archives Brandon Police Service conducting Check Stops in 2012

BRANDON -- It is an annual budget problem that leaves Brandon's mayor and council with two choices -- one bad, the other worse. They can impose large property tax increases in order to offset the rapidly rising cost of providing police services, or they can lessen the blow by limiting spending in other priority areas such as infrastructure renewal, economic development, downtown revitalization and affordable housing.

The first option harms Brandon's competitiveness, while exacerbating the tax burden borne by those living on low and fixed incomes. The second option defers necessary expenditures into the future, when they will inevitably come with a higher price tag.

Neither choice addresses the source of the problem, which is the escalating cost of operating a police department. It is a challenge facing Winnipeg and many other municipal governments, and Brandon has been among the hardest-hit communities in the nation.

In the past eight years, salaries for the city's police officers have risen by almost 46 per cent. Base pay for a first class constable in the Brandon Police Service now stands at $84,427 -- very close to what first class constables are paid in Vancouver ($85,716) and Toronto ($86,366) -- and despite the fact Brandon has neither the intensity of criminal activity nor the cost of living of either of those cities.

The explosion in police salaries has had a predictable impact on Brandon's operating budget. From 2011 to 2013 alone, budgeted policing costs have increased from $11.6 million to $14 million. That's a 19.9 per cent increase in just two years, and the city's draft 2014 budget calls for yet another hike.

While numerous communities throughout the nation are struggling with the same issue, it appears that the struggle is far more onerous for some than others.

With a population of 46,061 (according to the 2011 census), Brandon paid approximately $302 per citizen for its policing this year. That is far higher than Red Deer, Alta., (population: 97,109), which paid $21 million or $217.40 per citizen. Kelowna, B.C., (population: 117,312) paid $20 million or just $171.29 per citizen. Grande Prairie, Alta., Kamloops, B.C. and the Greater Moncton (N.B.) Area also paid substantially less per citizen than Brandon.

How have those communities avoided the costly increases Brandon is experiencing? How can Kelowna, with a population almost three times that of Brandon, have a policing budget that is just $6 million higher?

The answers to both questions lie in the fact none of those communities has municipal police forces. In each case, local policing is provided by the RCMP, at a substantially lower cost to taxpayers.

The RCMP provides police services under contract to municipalities in each of the provinces other than Ontario and Quebec (which have their own provincial police forces). Under those contracts, the federal government shares the cost of the service provided by the RCMP. For municipalities with a population over 15,000, jurisdictions pay 90 per cent and the federal government pays 10 per cent.

Communities do not have to meet special criteria for RCMP policing. Indeed, "the federal government is willing to consider requests for new municipal policing agreements," says Josée Picard, spokeswoman for the federal Public Safety department.

In other words, Brandon's city council has the option of switching to the RCMP for policing. If they could negotiate the same "per citizen" cost as Kelowna, it would reduce policing costs by more than $6 million -- enough money for targeted expenditures in other areas and a small tax cut.

The union representing Brandon's police officers has already signalled that it would fight such a move. "The RCMP is currently an agency with its difficulties," says Brandon Police Association president Kevin Loewen. "In fact, there are often times where the low staffing levels create response times that would shock a Brandon resident calling during an emergency.

"The Brandon Police Service provides a Cadillac service to the city both in response times and specialized sections available at a moment's notice."

That may or may not be true, but the issue is whether Brandonites can afford to continue paying Cadillac costs when a substantially more affordable option may be available.

That is a question for Brandon's mayor and council to decide. Whether they have the courage to do so remains to be seen.

 

Deveryn Ross is a political commentator living in Brandon.

deverynrossletters@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2013 A17

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Theresa Oswald announces bid for NDP leadership

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A nesting goose sits on the roof of GoodLife Fitness at 143 Nature Way near Kenaston as the morning sun comes up Wednesday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 07- Web crop-May 09, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think it's a good idea for Theresa Oswald to enter NDP leadership race?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google