No go for RCMP contract
Neither Coquitlam nor Port Coquitlam city councils will be signing off on the new RCMP contract by the provincial government's deadline tomorrow (Thursday).
Monday evening, Coquitlam council voted 6-3 to defer its decision on the 20-year deal until its June 18 meeting as it seeks clarity about some aspects of the agreement.
The same night, PoCo council voted behind closed doors — "for legal reasons," acting mayor Michael Wright said — after its regular council meeting to reaffirm its position to continue to hold off on the national RCMP contract.
Last month, Mayor Greg Moore sent a letter to Shirley Bond, B.C.'s minister of justice and attorney general, to ask for an extension until June 30.
In a press release issued Tuesday morning, Wright explained: "It is critical that we not rush into an agreement we feel is not, at this moment, in the best interest of our community" given the financial ramifications for taxpayers.
Coquitlam council, which shares a detachment with PoCo, voiced similar concerns on Monday night while shelving the topic for a third time.
"I just don't want to sign something that I don't completely understand," Coun. Neal Nicholson told The Tri-City News on Tuesday. "We haven't been given much time to talk about it... We pay most of the costs and we have been treated like we're a rented car."
He added: "One third of B.C. municipalities [that have RCMP] haven't signed the contract either so we're not very lonely out there."
Coquitlam RCMP Supt. Claude Wilcott said he's not bothered by the delay.
"We know the cities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam have asked for an extension. And we know it's not a reflection of their satisfaction with our organization," he said in a statement to The Tri-City News yesterday.
Previously, councils had been told they had until May 31 to sign on the dotted line or decide to establish their own city police forces.
But now, Bond isn't saying what will happen to cities that wait for more answers (a ministry spokesperson said Tuesday that "something is in the works" but it wouldn't be announced until after The News' print deadline).
"We have already extended the signing deadline from the end of April to the end of this month and, at this time, no decision has been made about a further extension," Bond said in a statement to Black Press last week.
Besides Coquitlam and PoCo, Burnaby, Richmond and North Vancouver councils haven't approved their RCMP contracts.
"We're not signing it until we get some response," city of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto said, adding it would be "very foolish" for a municipality to sign something as vague and unclear as the new policing contract.
"I can't assume what the province is going to do," Mussatto said. "We have to do our due diligence and take the time we have to take to analyze this contract as well as look at what are the alternatives to RCMP policing."
Mussatto and other mayors cited as a major concern the capital and operating cost of the new $1.2-billion RCMP E-Division headquarters being built in Surrey.
"We were told originally we wouldn't have to pay anything," Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said. "Now we're being told we're going to have to pay something and the kinds of estimates we're getting back are in the millions of dollars per year."
Other issues include the 5.25% pay increase for Mounties over three years that was more than cities had previously expected.
Bond and Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender have argued the new contract will make the RCMP much more accountable to cities for their spending than in the past.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he's in favour of the contract. "I'm happy to give our council as much time as they reasonably need to get up to speed," he said, "but, at the end of the day, there will only be one question left: Do you want the RCMP or not?"