Questions surround new RCMP contract

Speeders along Port Coquitlam
Speeders along Port Coquitlam's Mary Hill Bypass were pulled over and ticketed Thursday morning during a joint blitz by Coquitlam RCMP and ICBC aimed at high-risk drivers. The three-strikes campaign involved motorists being reminded about the 60 km/h speed limit via a reader board at the Pitt River bridge, followed by a warning sign from Speed Watch volunteers at Kingsway Avenue before the police action at Broadway Street. Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jamie Chung said the bypass sees, on average, one serious motor vehicle incident a month, a relatively high number. On Thursday, a driver was caught motoring along the stretch at 118 km/h, Chung said. The campaign, which also targeted driving behaviours such as failing to yield, following too closely, improper passing and ignoring street lights, came the same morning a cyclist was killed in Maple Ridge by an SUV driver who was allegedly speeding along Dewdney Trunk Road.

A Coquitlam city councillor who asked council to defer its decision before signing the new RCMP contract says she's still unclear about details of the deal.

Earlier this month, Coun. Selina Robinson asked council to not sign on the dotted line until she and other elected officials attending the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) conference in Whistler had discussed the topic with politicians in neighbouring communities that also use the Mounties.

"What I found out at the conference was there's a range of concerns out there in other jurisdictions, too," Robinson said. "And the more they spoke, the more I realized there's so much more that needs to be clarified before we go ahead with this.

"There are many questions that need answers and we need to know what we're signing up for," she said.

Specifically, Robinson pointed to the costs for the RCMP's new E-Division headquarters in Surrey and the five-year budget, which calls for pay hikes totalling an extra 5.25% over three years. As well, she said talks about a possible regional police force should be considered prior to the 20-year RCMP agreement is inked.

Robinson compared the contract process to Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy, which Coquitlam was the last to sign following an arbitration hearing. "It's similar because it feels like you're forced to agree to something, then deal with the consequences later," she said.

Coun. Craig Hodge, who also attended the LMLGA meeting, echoed her views. "We're just bystanders in this," he said. "We haven't had any real direct input into the contract negotiated by the province and the federal government, and we feel like we have a hammer over our heads right now.

"I'm not comfortable with signing a contract that I don't have all the answers to and I wish the province could have helped us out," Hodge said

But Coun. Brent Asmundson, also an LMLGA delegate, said he supports the national RCMP contract, which to date has been agreed by every province except B.C. "We can only hold out for so long," he said. "We can ask all the questions we want but it's not going to change anything. There are two choices at this point: sign the contract or do with our own municipal police force."

And Coun. Linda Reimer, who was also at LMLGA, said she was ready to ratify the contract two weeks ago. "In not supporting it, it means that we don't want the RCMP and we have effectively given notice that we want a municipal police force, and that's extremely expensive," she said.

Municipalities have until next Thursday to ratify the RCMP contract. So far, 41 out of 62 municipal councils in B.C. have signed on.

The city of Port Coquitlam, which shares the local detachment with Coquitlam, has asked the provincial and federal governments for a further extension — until June 30 — to consider the contract.

But a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General told The Tri-City News in an email Thursday the deadline has already been pushed by a month, from April 30 to May 31. As well, the ministry has been responding to municipalities' questions about the contract, she said.

"Some municipalities continue to have questions regarding the cost impacts of recent federal government announcements about the Budget Implementation Act and Minister [Shirley] Bond has directed ministry staff to work specifically with those municipalities who are still unsure about signing their municipal agreements," the spokesperson said.

Coquitlam city council is expected to vote on the RCMP contract at its meeting Monday.


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