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Feds have threatened to withdraw RCMP from BC, says Bond

An ultimatum from the federal government may spell the end of the RCMP, said British Columbia's Solicitor General Shirley Bond.

"I'd be enormously disappointed as a Canadian to see the end of a national police force in Canada," Bond told an audience at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention where she was to give an update on RCMP contract negotiations. "I don't know what their endgame is."

The federal government has told the province to sign a 20-year contract by the end of November or it will begin pulling services in 2014, she said.

Talks have stalled since March, said Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who is on the provincial negotiating team.

"We have a rising degree of frustration even about not being able to talk about these issues that matter, said Bond. "I don't want this to get acrimonious . .. We've got to get them back to the table to discuss this."

Bond told reporters her ministry received a letter in July from the federal minister of public safety, Vic Toews, saying that if B.C. doesn't sign the federal proposal, they will begin withdrawing services in 2014.

"Obviously we're not very pleased there's been that type of ultimatum and we look forward to having the negotiators come back to the table," she said.

Alberta and Saskatchewan broke from a block of provinces and territories negotiating with the federal government and signed contracts during the summer, Bond said. After that, the federal government appeared to lose interest in further negotiations with the remaining jurisdictions, she said.

"What we want are some management tools," she said. "We want to be able to sit down and talk to the federal government when we're looking at increased costs, to say, 'Are these things important? How are we going to pay for them?' We have no ability to have that discussion today."

B.C. has 6,000 RCMP officers, more than any other jurisdiction in the country. That presence costs local governments $500 million and the provincial government $300 million, Bond said.

The cost is significant for individual municipalities. Kevin Flynn, a Salmon Arm councilor, said 25 percent of his community's budget is for policing, and for some local government's the portion is even higher.

Policing costs have doubled in recent years and the province recognizes they'll continue to increase, Bond said. "We're saying at least give us some legitimacy in a partnership rather than just paying the bill at the end of the day."

Bond said her priority is to get back to negotiating with the federal government, but that the province has to consider its options including what it would cost to start a provincial police force. "In order to be responsible we have to have that homework done," she said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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