The District of Squamish (DOS) has won a three-year-long, $2 million tug-of-war over RCMP costs.
After a three-year dispute over policing costs, the provincial government has decided in favour of the DOS. RCMP municipal policing agreements outline payments for service based on a town's population. The 2006 census placed Squamish in a payment bracket for communities with less than 15,000 residents. Communities under that figure pay 70 per cent of the total policing contract, while those over the line pitch in 90 per cent, with the province covering the remainder.
In 2009, the district received an invoice for 90 per cent of the policing bill, based on a population reassessment by the province. The district argued that the contract specifies that population be based on the official census, not a reassessment, Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham said. As such, the municipality continued to pay for 70 per cent of its policing costs, while being invoiced for 90 per cent. It was a costly difference that the district faced if wrong.
“We thought we were right all along, but it is a big win to have them acknowledge that, after they were going off in another direction,” Kirkham said, noting that at last year's Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference, councillors met with Shirley Bond, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to highlight the issue.
Kirkham said he is unaware of other municipalities that had provincial reassessments and may also be eligible for such savings.
The new RCMP contract, signed by the municipality earlier this month, clarified the census to be “the federal census,” Clayton Pecknold, the assistant deputy minister and director of police services, wrote in a letter to Kirkham.
“This decision represents a savings to your municipality in excess of $2 million,” he wrote.
Pecknold also stated that the province is reviewing the district's payments for E-Comm911 dispatch services — a communications centre that provides emergency dispatch services for several police and fire departments in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Kirkham would not elaborate on E-Comm discussions because, he said, negotiations are ongoing. The service is not a part of the police contract, he noted.
“It is all about money,” Kirkham said.
The district this year started paying for 90 per cent of its policing costs after the 2011 Canada Census placed the local population at just over 17,000. The additional cost for this year alone was more than $900,000.