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Complete overhaul of rural policing in Alberta! Province adding 500 RCMP officers and support staff

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Doug Schweitzer

Justice Minister and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer shakes hands with an RCMP officer in Leduc County.

Historic investment in rural policing

Alberta is adding more than 500 RCMP positions in rural communities across the province and fostering new public safety partnership with municipalities.

The Government of Alberta’s new police funding model will inject more than $286 million over five years into frontline law enforcement for these additional RCMP officer and civilian positions. This new cost-sharing partnership will see small and rural communities begin to pay a portion of frontline policing costs, bringing them into line with larger communities and cities.

Under the cost-sharing terms in the Provincial Police Service Agreement (PPSA), Alberta pays 70 per cent of policing costs and the federal government covers the remaining 30 per cent. With the additional investment from municipalities, the federal share of the PPSA will increase as well. This partnership will constitute a total increase in rural police funding of more than $286 million over five years with every dollar of the additional funds invested in frontline policing.

The province is creating a new Alberta Police Advisory Board, where municipal leadership will have a seat at the table, working in collaboration with law enforcement to ensure local needs are heard and implemented. This new governance mechanism will ensure that policing is in line with the priorities of those they are protecting.

“Ensuring Albertans are safe, secure, and protected in their communities goes to the heart of who we are as a government. We want to ensure we fund law enforcement in an equitable and sustainable way that will ensure we have more police in our communities. With this new police funding model, we are making the single largest investment in rural policing since the March West and delivering on our promise to enhance public safety.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

“Crime affects many in my own rural community, and it is an issue that is incredibly personal to me. All Albertans deserve to feel safe in their own homes and confident that they will not fall victim to violent or property crime. This new police funding model will provide increased security and certainty for rural Albertans, and value for taxpayer dollars.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

“The Government of Alberta has made an unprecedented investment in their police service, and we are ready to deliver on that commitment. The funding model announced will allow the Alberta RCMP to put additional resources where they are needed most immediately – on the frontline in your detachments, protecting your backyards and your farmyards, pushing back crime in a sophisticated and focused manner.”

Curtis Zablocki, Deputy Commissioner, RCMP

“Rural Municipalities of Alberta appreciates the Government of Alberta’s willingness to consult on this issue, and as a result of input from RMA and rural municipalities, implement a phased-in police-costing model. Rural crime has been an ongoing issue in Alberta in recent years, and rural municipalities recognize they need to share in the costs of the solutions to support safer communities.”

Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta

“AUMA has long advocated for a more equitable police-funding model to address RCMP vacancies and the rising costs of policing while improving community safety. We’re pleased to see action on this critical priority by the provincial government, as safe and healthy municipalities build strong communities and a stronger Alberta. Further consultation is critical to supporting local governments with the policing resources they need, and we look forward to actively contributing to the Alberta Police Advisory Board.”

Barry Morishita, president, Alberta Urban Municipalities Association

This partnership places priority on adding uniformed patrol officers in rural RCMP detachments, increasing the total number from under 1,600 to about 1,900, and will also add members to specialized RCMP units that dismantle organized crime and drug trafficking and investigate auto and scrap metal theft.

Furthermore, the new civilian positions will assist with administrative tasks and investigative support to increase response times and help ensure officers have the support network they need to protect Albertans by spending more time on roads and in communities.

Quick facts

  • Small and rural communities, with some exceptions, will begin contributing a portion of their frontline policing costs in 2020. To give communities time to adjust, the new funding model is being phased in: communities will contribute 10 per cent of policing costs in 2020, followed by 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022 and 30 per cent in 2023.
  • Policing costs for each community will be determined by municipal tax base (as measured by equalized assessment) and population to calculate a base cost. Communities will also be eligible for other subsidies that consider other factors that may affect local policing costs.
  • Current annual PPSA amount, 2019-20 (prior to new police funding partnership): $374.8 million
  • Government of Alberta contribution: $262.4 million
  • Government of Canada contribution: $112.4 million
  • Additional investments to current PPSA to April 1, 2024 will be: $286,605,021
    • Government of Alberta contribution: $200,623,515
    • Government of Canada contribution: $85,981,506
  • All additional investments will go towards more frontline resources.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

A for Quebec, F for Alberta: Study rates Canadian governments on conservation

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A new report grades Canadian governments in how they responded to the country’s international promise to conserve at least 17 per cent of its land mass and 10 per cent of its oceans by 2020. 

The report, released today by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, says Quebec and the federal government are the only jurisdictions to come close to meeting the 17 per cent conservation target.

The society says Alberta performed the worst, cancelling previously planned protections, delisting parks and attempting to open the Rocky Mountains for open-pit coal mining. 

“A lot of it has to do with political will,” said society spokeswoman Alison Woodley.

The group chose to examine how close different Canadian jurisdictions came to meeting its Aichi targets, an international agreement signed by Canada in 2010. The idea, said Woodley, was to learn how to better meet the next set of conservation goals — 30 per cent of land and oceans by 2030.

The report used internationally recognized standards of what constitutes protection and federal data on the amount of land covered. 

Nationally, Canada met and exceeded its 2020 ocean goals, but fell short by more than three percentage points on land. That was good enough for a B-plus and an A-minus respectively, the report says.

The report credits funding — the 2021 federal budget included $2.3 billion for conservation — as well as a willingness to work with Indigenous groups for Ottawa’s progress.

Quebec nearly met its land conservation goals, conserving 16.7 per cent of its territory.

“The province worked with communities and First Nations to identify and deliver on new protected areas,” said Woodley.

Alberta, not so much. Although the province has more than 15 per cent of its land mass protected, the report points out Alberta has attempted to delist parks, open its Rocky Mountains to coal mining and walked away from plans that would have created some of the biggest new protected areas in the country. 

“It’s not just about areas of protections,” said report author Anna Pidgorna. “Alberta’s going backwards in many ways.”

Alberta Environment did not immediately respond to a request to outline conservation measures taken by the United Conservative government. 

Ontario and Newfoundland share Alberta’s F grade. Ontario has protected less than one per cent of its lands over the last decade, with a similar story in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the percentage of protected land is among the lowest in Canada. 

The rest of the country is a mix, said Woodley. 

Saskatchewan is criticized for having protected less than 10 per cent of its land and weakening protections on native grasslands, but praised for working with Indigenous groups and granting interim protection to one new area. Manitoba made early progress, the report says, but has lately discussed selling off park land.  

British Columbia has almost 20 per cent of its land under protection. But the province is criticized for no recent progress and underfunding the parks it does have. 

The Northwest Territories get a B-plus for creating large new protected areas and working with Indigenous groups to define and manage them. 

Woodley said the study shows that funding makes a big difference to creating protected areas. So does time and patience.

“Conservation takes time,” she said. 

“A major barrier to delivering on the 17-per-cent target was a lack of time. If we’re going to meet the 30-per-cent target, we need to start now.”  

Woodley said conserving land is the best way to address the loss of species and shrinking biodiversity around the world.

“Habitat loss is the primary driver of nature’s decline. Protecting habitat has to be a core part of the solution.”

 This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2021. 

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Details released on fatal hunt for suspect in Alberta where police dog also died

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HIGH PRAIRIE, Alta. — Alberta’s police oversight agency has released new details about last week’s death of a man whose pursuit, arrest and death near a provincial park also resulted in the death of a police service dog.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says in a news release the 29-year-old suspect was involved in a shootout with RCMP on Thursday after officers had tracked him for several kilometres through thick bush around High Prairie, Alta.

During the gunfire exchange, ASIRT says a police service dog was shot and killed, and the officers were told to disengage and were airlifted out in a helicopter.

ASIRT says backup was brought in and officers fired their guns when they encountered the suspect again, and this time they believed they’d hit him, but attempts to find him failed.

The agency says officers later made contact with the suspect two more times but it appeared he hadn’t been injured after all.

The release says on Friday morning, two officers who were assigned to contain the area spotted the suspect in a ditch, a confrontation occurred, and both officers opened fire. The suspect was later pronounced dead.

“The man fell to the ground in the tall grass, and additional police officers and … medical officers responded to the area. Medical officers attempted to treat the man, but ultimately he died at the scene,” the ASIRT release said of the final confrontation.

“A loaded semi-automatic .22-calibre rifle, as well as a range finder, were recovered from the incident scene and have been seized as exhibits.”

RCMP identified the suspect last week as Lionel Ernest Grey of the Gift Lake Metis Settlement. Police had said that he’d died from injuries following his arrest, but they hadn’t say what injuries he’d had or how he died.

They said a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit.

ASIRT said its investigation will examine the actions of police, while the RCMP will maintain responsibility for the investigation of the suspect and his actions.

The agency said that since investigation is underway, it won’t be releasing any further information.

ASIRT is investigating another shooting in northern Alberta on Sunday night that also ended with a suspect dead and a police dog injured.

Mounties said they were looking for a suspect who fled on foot after a dispute in a vehicle near the community of Ardmore, southwest of Cold Lake. They said officers and a police dog found the suspect, there was a confrontation and an officer fired a gun.

The man died at the scene and the dog was taken to a veterinarian and treated for a non life-threatening injury.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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