Most Albertans do not want a provincial police force: Survey

A new survey conducted for the National Police Federation (NPF) by Pollara shows that a majority of Albertans remain opposed to replacing the RCMP.

According to the poll, more than 80 per cent of Albertans want to keep the RCMP “outright or with improvements.”

Kevin Halwa, regional prairie director of the NPF, which represents about 20,000 RCMP officers, says the results of this survey confirm the findings of a similar survey from 2021.

Halwa says that Albertans are happy with the RCMP.

“There’s very, very few that are interested in going down this road of a provincial police service,” Halwa told CityNews.

The government has been pushing forward with its idea to create a provincial police service with a new website that it unveiled earlier this month.

RELATED STORIES: UCP unveil plans for new provincial police force, NDP say cost to Albertans is major red flag

Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro responded to the results of the poll.

“It’s unsurprising that an online poll commissioned by a union would favour the status-quo. That being said, we are going to take a hard look at any content provided by any group on this issue, including the information that the union has released,” Shandro said. “Make no mistake, just as the federal government unilaterally saddled municipalities with retroactive pay increases totalling millions of dollars, the federal government also intends to either withdraw the RCMP from Alberta or shift all policing costs onto the province and municipalities in the future.

“The evidence is detailed on the website. Perhaps most revealing is the Public Safety Canada’s own website, which states: ‘Provincial responsibility for the administration of justice includes policing matters. It has been the Government of Canada’s objective since the 1960’s to decrease its contract policing financial liability.'”

Halwa criticizes the province’s website, saying there are “important discrepancies and outright errors.”

“It’s disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that the Government of Alberta has chosen to release this website in the middle of summer and in the absence of a clear, future Premier,” said Halwa. “They’ve continued to promote a transition away from the Alberta RCMP and into an expensive provincial police service that only a fringe portion of UCP members seem to want, which is misleading because it doesn’t appear to be in the public interest.”

Shandro previously said transitioning to the proposed Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) would improve governance and give municipalities more say in setting their own policing priorities.

He said the APPS model would also provide greater coverage, reduce response times, and lower case loads per officer.

An Angus Reid study from June of this year shows half of Albertans have “little or no confidence” in the RCMP, while 46 per cent say they lack faith in their local police or local RCMP detachment.

Halwa says he’s confused as to why the province is pushing so hard to create its own police service, and accuses the province of peddling misinformation.

“It’s a question that I get asked a lot, as to why I think the UCP government wants to move towards a provincial police service. And, I got to tell you, I’m still scratching my head trying to come up with a good answer,” Halwa said. “They’ve said many things numerous times over the last year, things like ‘too much control from Ottawa,’ which is not true. Things like ‘there is little input on the provincial policing priorities from the province’ also not true.”

Halwa says it’s a bad idea to try and transition away from the RCMP in the province, and points to a similar situation happening in Surrey, B.C. as an example.

Surrey police force

Surrey made the call to create its own police force last year, a move that the new Surrey Police Service described as one of the largest police transitions in Canada.

Current Surrey City Councillor, and candidate for mayor Brenda Locke described the transition as a waste of money and “a failed experiment.”

Locke promised that pulling the plug on the transition will be the first thing she does if elected in October.

Halwa says Surrey’s police transition cost far more than what the initial estimates were. He adds under the model that the Alberta government is proposing, the government could find itself in an even larger financial predicament.

“The transition costs alone on that [Albertan] model are $371 million, that’s if it’s on time and if it’s on budget,” Halwa said. “If we see anything similar than what we’ve been seeing in Surrey, you know — if we’re 400 per cent over [transitional cost estimates] on that one — in Alberta, you can easily see how those transition costs could be over a billion dollars.”

Shandro adds the province hasn’t made the call to establish a provincial police force, but is preparing for the “inevitability” of a transition away from the RCMP.

“Whether that decision is made in the near future or years from now,” Shandro said. “Alberta has launched to provide Albertans with detailed, reliable information about the potential benefits of a provincial police service.

“Additional engagement with Albertans, municipalities, and First Nations is ongoing and must be completed before a decision can be made. Various engagement efforts are underway and we will share more details publicly as that work is finalized.”

With files from Taylor Braat and Tim James

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