Port Coquitlam 'need nose plugs' for RCMP contract vote

Port Coquitlam councilors Darrell Penner, left, and Michael Wright.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Port Coquitlam councilors Darrell Penner, left, and Michael Wright.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Port Coquitlam has signed a 20-year police agreement — reluctantly — with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but will explore alternative policing models that staff said might better serve the community.

Councillors took turns taking shots at the contract during Monday evening’s meeting but all voted in favour of it after the city was warned it could lose a 10% cost share with the federal government if it did not sign. The province also threatened to charge a monthly administration fee if the contract was not in place by June 30.

“To vote for this, we need nose plugs for sure,” said Coun. Darrell Penner. “This has been an extremely difficult position that the province has put us in.”

In a report, staff said the city is concerned the agreement does not provide cost-certainty and councillors fear the city could be on the hook for a portion of the $1-billion construction costs of the new RCMP E Division headquarters in Surrey.

As well, the Union of B.C. Municipalities has pushed the province to negotiate a 70/30 cost sharing split between the federal government and the municipalities. Under the new contract, Ottawa covers 10% of local policing costs while the city picks up the other 90%.

Coun. Brad West said the agreement does not address any of the issues municipalities have about policing and its costs.

“I am deeply troubled by the process and the outcome,” West said. “I have been thinking about the appropriate terminology to describe this. Quite frankly, the process is BS. The outcome is poor.”

He pointed out that earlier this year the provincial government introduced the Local Government Auditor General as a way of reviewing municipal expenditures and procedures.

“Now, they are holding a gun to our head and telling us to sign one of the most fiscally irresponsible contracts that a municipality can sign.”

Council voted in favour of sending the agreement to the municipal auditor for review.

Coun. Mike Forrest echoed West’s comments. He added that the process was flawed and the city should consider looking at alternative policing arrangements.

“We are so frustrated with where we find ourselves at present,” he said. “I have no problem looking at other options.”

Under the contract, the city can opt out of the agreement with two years notice to the federal government.

But Coun. Michael Wright said while the current agreement is not ideal, it may be the best the city can get. He agreed that the process was less than desirable but said switching to an alternative policing model could be expensive.

“I am not convinced that we can get the same quality of service by having a different model,” Wright said.

Port Coquitlam is one of the last holdouts to sign the contract. Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam recently signed the agreement after B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond said she would not push the deadline past June 30.

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