Municipalities across Manitoba and beyond are hoping they won’t be left on the hook for a substantial increase in policing costs negotiated between the federal government and the National Police Federation.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) tells Global News the 23.7-per cent wage increase — which is retroactive to 2017 — is going to “affect all municipalities negatively.”
“We were not consulted. We were not at the table,” says Denys Volkov, AMM’s executive director. “So what we are saying is if we weren’t at the table, we shouldn’t be on the hook for this increase.”
Volkov says they were aware an increase was likely all the way back in 2015, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Mounties have the right to collective bargaining.
“Municipalities were told to set aside 2.5 per cent annually, but when the 23.7-per cent number came out, everybody realized the previous estimate given to municipalities was not sufficient to cover the increase,” Volkov says.
“That’s why we’ve increased our lobbying to say the federal government should cover all of this increase retroactively.”
The AMM continues to work with its national counterpart, the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, to lobby the fed to pick up the tab, and Volkov says they’re urging members to send letters directly to the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, “outlining that municipalities are not in a position to pay for these increases.”
The exact dollar amount for which each municipality will be on the hook varies, Volkov says, depending on their existing contracts.
He says some jurisdictions pay 70 per cent of the RCMP’s wages, others 90 per cent, and others less, depending on their size.
The latest to join the lobbying campaign is the City of Selkirk, with CAO Duane Nicol saying the hike would put “substantial” strain on the city’s finances.
“The City of Selkirk has a strong working relationship with the local RCMP leadership and we get great service, our issue is not with the local detachment or the quality of the service we receive. And it’s certainly not an issue with the level of compensation for officers,” Nicol said in a news release Friday.
“Our issue is that we were not part of the process, and this is a very large financial hit to municipalities. Without some federal government support, this will put a lot of pressure on the city budget. It will mean either a tax increase or a cut to other services.”
In 2021, $2.92 million of Selkirk’s operating budget was dedicated to the RCMP, and just over 20 per cent of total operating expenses were for policing costs.
The city says it’s the single largest service area of its operating budget.
Global News contacted the federal government’s department of public safety and emergency preparedness for comment but did not receive a response by the end of the day Monday.
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