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Danielle Smith Tells Minister to Launch an Alberta Police Force in Mandate Letter

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s decision to replace the RCMP with a provincial police service could lead other provinces to make similar moves and prompt RCMP reforms, say former Mounties and a criminologist.

Darryl Davies, a Carleton University criminology professor, says Alberta’s move is proper and overdue.

“The RCMP have failed to address valid criticisms made by many experts that their command-and-control structure was dysfunctional and out of date with the times. The number of lawsuits they have faced for sexual harassment, bullying, and outright sloppy policing have forced Alberta’s hand,” Davies told The Epoch Times.

“The failure by the federal government and several public safety ministers over the last decade to modernize and reform the RCMP is directly responsible for this situation.”

Smith approved creation of a provincial police service on Nov. 9 in a mandate letter to Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis. “Work with the Minister of Justice, as the lead, and Municipal Affairs to launch an Alberta Police Service,” Smith wrote.

Momentum for forming an Alberta Police Service began in 2019 with hearings by the Fair Deal Panel. In response to the panel’s recommendation to establish a provincial police force, the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General contracted PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to prepare a report to assess the requirements of transitioning from the RCMP. PwC submitted its analysis in October 2021, which was followed by further stakeholder consultation.

Davies says esteem for the RCMP has eroded, and not just in Alberta.

“The promotion system is flawed and the force no longer has the support of many members in the rank and file, many of them who work in very remote areas without adequate support and backup,” he said.

Larry Comeau, who served 36 years as a Mountie and retired with the rank of superintendent, suggests that Western grievances have simmered for decades.

“There has always been frustration in the West … that the [provinces in the] West are being policed by RCMP members from provinces in the East,” Comeau told The Epoch Times.

“In Ontario and Quebec, the provincial police there can fully concentrate on the priorities of those provinces. They also hire from within those provinces and find these officers have a special attachment to it. This is something that the Western provinces have found wanting.”

‘Something Has to Give’

In April, an all-party committee of B.C. MLAs recommended that the province follow Ontario’s and Quebec’s examples by having its own provincial force. Other provinces, such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan, are also considering opting out of their RCMP contracts in favour of provincial forces.

Comeau says he believes Alberta’s divorce from the RCMP could mark “the beginning of the end” for contract policing in general, and lead to other “big changes” in its operations.

“The RCMP has resisted change for many years and now that may well be forced upon it,” he wrote.

“For far too long the RCMP has taken on more and more duties without acquiring the resources needed. This means some things are not being done properly. When you think the RCMP performs the same functions as the FBI, Secret Service, DEA, USINS, Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Control, US Marshall Services and others, plus perform contract policing, something has to give!”

MPs have made similar observations. In June 2021, a House of Commons committee determined that the RCMP’s role as a contract police force divided its focus between community and federal policing. The committee recommended that the federal government explore ending the contract policing and work with the provinces, territories, and municipalities to help those interested to establish their own police forces.

Opposition and Doubts

PwC reported that Alberta’s service contract with the RCMP costs the province $500 million annually, with the federal government contributing an additional $170 million. However, it estimated that an Alberta Police Service would require $366 million in startup costs and $735 million annually.

In March, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, a group comprising Alberta’s 69 counties and municipal districts, passed a resolution to continue supporting the RCMP and oppose creating a provincial police service, in part due to the increased costs for municipalities.

In November, the National Police Federation (NPF), the union representing 20,000 RCMP members across Canada, released a poll suggesting only 26 percent of Albertans support replacing the RCMP, with 60 percent opposed and 14 percent undecided. The NPF issued a letter urging the Alberta government to retain the RCMP. It was signed by 73 towns, villages, counties, and unions.

Low recruitment could pose an additional problem.

Leland Keane, who retired in 2019 as a firearms instructor after 32 years with the RCMP, said the force struggles to attract new candidates and that a provincial police service in Alberta would face similar hurdles.

“Recruiting anyone to policing now is challenging, no matter the force,” Keane told The Epoch Times.

“The [RCMP] is hemorrhaging experienced police. Few people are applying. Few of my peers recommend the career to those they have influence over. The removal of the force from any province may occur through attrition rather than politics.”

Retired Mountie Rob Creaser says if the Alberta Police Service ever becomes a “done deal,” it would be a good thing if it’s better funded than the RCMP.

“When I was a serving member all I wanted was to have proper resourcing, both financial and human, so that we could be effective in our jobs and to receive competitive monetary and benefits compensation,” Creaser said in an email.

“Finally the compensation issue has been dealt with but as far as the resourcing goes, we’re still nowhere close to where we need to be. Hopefully that will change with a provincial force.”

Lee Harding


Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.

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