Small towns protest downloading of police costs 

Mayors say change could bankrupt them

Pemberton and other small communities say they face virtual bankruptcy if the provincial government goes ahead with plans to make communities under 5,000 pay their own policing costs.

"We are really concerned," said Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner.

Currently the town has five RCMP officers, each of whom cost about $100,000 before the cost of vehicles and administration is added in.

"So that would cost us about $500,000," said Warner. "We collect $620,000 in taxes so you can do the math and figure out that this just isn’t going to work. We have huge concerns."

Warner is concerned not just about the downloading of this cost but also about on-going plans by the RCMP to join Whistler’s detachment to Pemberton’s.

"We are really very apprehensive," she said.

"Right now we haven’t got their business plan about how this is exactly going to work and we don’t know when the Small Policing Act will come in. So we just don’t know how it will all work together and we are very concerned."

No matter what happens Pemberton will be paying something for policing when the dust settles.

The issue engendered heated debate at this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention.

At a pre-conference forum Solicitor General Rich Coleman told hundreds of delegates it was time for the discussions to reach some conclusion for the good of policing across the province.

"This is us working together on a consultative basis for the future of policing in B.C," said Coleman.

"There are about 700,000 people in the province who do not in effect pay for policing.

"The small communities say ‘Don’t touch us,’ and the larger communities say, "Look, it’s not fair that we’re actually indirectly or directly subsidizing these communities,’ and… I think it’s important that we get fairness."

Currently the province pays for policing of about 70 unorganized territories and communities with populations of less than 5,000. This cost $153 million in 2001/2002.

Larger communities policed by the RCMP pay on a sliding scale, ranging from 30 per cent to 90 per cent. Whistler began paying part of the cost of its RCMP detachment several years ago. Municipal budgets have included a one per cent increase each year specifically to help pay for RCMP services.

Twelve municipalities, including Vancouver and Victoria, have their own municipal forces for which they pay the entire cost.

"Every taxpayer in Vancouver who pays income tax to B.C. that goes to general revenue is supporting the provincial infrastructure of policing," said Coleman.

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