Back pay for Mounties creates political quagmire

Advertisement

Advertise with us

“We appreciate and value the work of the RCMP in Manitoba. However, municipalities were not consulted nor were they involved in the negotiation of the back pay that the federal government negotiated in the RCMP contract. Simply handing the bill to municipalities isn’t good enough and will significantly impact local municipalities and their residents.”

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

We need your support!
Local journalism needs your support!

As we navigate through unprecedented times, our journalists are working harder than ever to bring you the latest local updates to keep you safe and informed.

Now, more than ever, we need your support.

Starting at $14.99 plus taxes every four weeks you can access your Brandon Sun online and full access to all content as it appears on our website.

Subscribe Now

or call circulation directly at (204) 727-0527.

Your pledge helps to ensure we provide the news that matters most to your community!

Opinion

“We appreciate and value the work of the RCMP in Manitoba. However, municipalities were not consulted nor were they involved in the negotiation of the back pay that the federal government negotiated in the RCMP contract. Simply handing the bill to municipalities isn’t good enough and will significantly impact local municipalities and their residents.”

— Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen

“The provincial government should provide funding to cover off the cost until the dispute with the federal government is resolved so there is no disruption to policing services or tax increases for communities.”

— NDP municipal relations critic Lisa Naylor

Manitoba’s two largest political parties are attempting to cast the financial impact of retroactive RCMP pay increases on the province’s municipalities as a wedge issue, a situation that merely plays into the hands of an apparently unyielding federal government.

A collective agreement between the federal government and the RCMP that came into force in August 2021 included pay raises for regular members and reservists of nearly 24 per cent. The deal, which expired at the end of last March, also included retroactive pay increases of three and four per cent back to April 2017.

Under RCMP policing contract requirements with Public Safety Canada, municipalities are required to cover 70 per cent of costs if they have fewer than 15,000 residents, and 90 per cent if they have more.

As we have previously reported, this means 21 communities in Manitoba that have these policing contracts are on the hook for significant unexpected costs — the Association of Manitoba Municipalities told us last month the bill reached upwards of $5.1 million for these communities. As municipal governments, by law, are not allowed to run a deficit, it has left cities like Selkirk and Portage la Prairie no choice but to hike property taxes in order to pay for the RCMP wage increases.

Here in western Manitoba, the RM of Boissevain-Morton was handed a $50,000 bill by the federal government to cover the cost of back pay for officers working in that community. And other Westman communities are in the same situation, including Dauphin, Killarney-Turtle Mountain, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Roblin, Russell-Binscarth, Souris-Glenwood and Virden.

And the problem goes far beyond the province of Manitoba. In Alberta, for example, Alberta Municipalities last year estimated municipal governments in that province would dole out $80 million in retroactive pay.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and its provincial counterparts — including the AMM — have been lobbying the federal government to absorb these retroactive costs and also to ensure municipalities are “properly consulted” in future discussions and decisions regarding RCMP costs that stand to impact their fiscal sustainability.

Keep in mind that local municipalities are also expected to eat the cost of the implementation of body cameras for RCMP, to the tune of $2,000 to $3,000 per camera.

Last June, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino met with members of the FCM and confirmed that the federal government would pause billing to municipalities for the RCMP until governments discuss how to handle these retroactive costs. Yet the recent federal budget did not include any promise to absorb these costs, but rather included an extension for municipalities to pay the outstanding funds.

Worse still, rather than work together to pursue a resolution with the federal government, Wab Kinew’s NDP and Progressive Conservative Premier Heather Stefanson’s government have engaged in a rousing display of finger pointing and back biting, with the NDP calling on the province to help municipalities foot the bills until the Trudeau Liberals agree to pay. Meanwhile, the Tories yesterday accused the NDP of voting against increased RCMP funding for municipalities after turning up its nose at a PC-tabled resolution in the Manitoba legislature that called on the federal government to adequately support Manitoba municipalities.

“We believe in defending, not defunding, our police,” PC caucus chair Ron Schuler said in a press release.

In fairness, the Tories have no moral authority to talk about adequate municipal funding, considering the province had, until very recently, frozen municipal funding at 2016 levels, in spite of the rising costs due to inflation.

Similarly, for the NDP to demand the province pay these fees in the interim seems disingenuous, as it’s unlikely a Kinew-led government would capitulate to a similar demand from the opposition seats, particularly when it’s a federal responsibility.

Meanwhile, the federal government can continue to ignore these politically tainted entreaties from squabbling provincial politicians, and struggling municipalities remain on the hook to pay the bills.

And negotiations are already underway for the RCMP’s next collective agreement. Think we’ll have a political solution before they hammer out a new contract?

Neither do I.

» Matt Goerzen, editor

Report Error Submit a Tip

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

LOAD MORE