Canada’s major urban centres are facing significant decay and chaos, with no concrete action being taken by any level of government to restore public safety. The blame game between governments continues, leaving citizens feeling helpless and vulnerable. However, amidst this concerning situation, there are some efforts being made to address the issue.
Despite initially pausing its pursuit of a provincial police force as per the mandate letters sent to Premier Danielle Smith’s first cabinet in November, Alberta’s Public Safety department has clarified that work on an Alberta Police Service is still ongoing. According to Public Safety spokesperson Michael Kwas, “An Alberta Police Service remains part of the government’s ongoing work to examine and implement a variety of options that will ensure the safety and security of Albertans.” While the focus currently lies on empowering municipalities to make their own choices and ensuring the current policing model meets their needs, the government acknowledges the urgency of the safety challenges faced by Alberta.
In alignment with provincial jurisdiction, Premier Smith has expressed her commitment to being “tough on crime” and has called on the federal government to amend its direction to the Supreme Court to support “catch and release.” The premier also emphasized the importance of provincial control over policing and justice matters. These statements underline the government’s determination to address the deteriorating situation and restore public safety.
The Justice Minister, Mickey Amery, has also stated that despite not receiving explicit direction from Premier Smith in her recent mandate letter, his department continues to consult with Albertans about policing. This ongoing engagement with the community reflects the government’s efforts to involve citizens in finding effective solutions.
In a proactive move, the government recently established the Indigenous and Municipal Police Transition Study Grant, which provides communities with up to $30,000 for feasibility studies exploring alternative policing models. These models may include municipal police services, self-administered First Nations police services, or regional policing arrangements. This initiative demonstrates the government’s commitment to finding innovative solutions that best serve the unique needs of different communities.
Grande Prairie city councillors also took a significant step towards addressing the safety concerns by passing a historic vote to replace the unpopular RCMP with a municipal police service. This decision marks the first time Alberta has seen a municipal police force since 1956. The UCP government allocated $9.7 million to Grande Prairie over two years to aid in the transition costs, showing their support for this change. Mayor Jackie Clayton expressed confidence that this initial funding would facilitate a successful transition and emphasized the importance of a community-led police service.
While some may argue against replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force, a recent telephone poll suggests that a majority opposes this idea. Pollster Janet Brown highlighted that 74% of municipalities outside major cities expressed opposition to a provincial police service, with 61% believing that crime rates have increased in their communities. These concerns reflect the rising rates of violent crime, which have seen a 14% increase in urban areas and a staggering 24% increase in rural areas between 2017 and 2021. Rural Albertans, in particular, are in favor of increased funding for law enforcement before considering any changes.
Despite the opposition and the associated costs, the Alberta government has extensively studied and advocated for the establishment of a provincial police force. Reports estimated that abandoning the RCMP would incur an initial cost of $366 million and an estimated annual cost of $200 million. Another report from 2021 suggested that the total expense of a provincial police force could range between $734 million and $759 million. These figures highlight the financial implications that need to be carefully considered in the decision-making process.
In conclusion, the decay and chaos experienced by Canada’s major urban centres demand immediate attention. It is evident that all levels of government must work together to find effective solutions and restore public safety. While the blame game continues, efforts such as ongoing work on an Alberta Police Service, consultation with Albertans, and initiatives like the Indigenous and Municipal Police Transition Study Grant provide a glimmer of hope. The establishment of a municipal police service in Grande Prairie also sets a positive precedent for empowering communities to prioritize their safety needs. It is essential that all stakeholders continue to engage in constructive dialogue and collaborate towards long-term solutions that ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.