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Victoria and Esquimalt mayors call for regional cost-sharing for policing

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins hold a joint press conference on Friday to release details of the township
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins hold a joint press conference on Friday to release details of the township's policing proposals, put forward by the RCMP and Victoria police in March 2011.
— image credit: Daniel Palmer/News staff

After months of privacy concerns, Esquimalt has finally released its policing proposals, revealing a pick-and-choose menu of options from the RCMP and a comprehensive all-in package from the Victoria Police Department.

The proposals shed light on the province's decision in June to force Esquimalt to maintain policing services with VicPD, despite the township's push to switch to the RCMP.

It will cost Esquimalt an average of $7.9 million each year for VicPD services, an unsustainable expense without regional or provincial support, said Mayor Barb Desjardins and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin at a joint press conference on Friday at Esquimalt's municipal hall.

"We host two-thirds of the population of Greater Victoria on any given day," Fortin said.

"We have two municipalities that are paying the cost, and one force delivering the service. This financial model isn't sustainable for the taxpayers of Victoria or Esquimalt," he added.

The initial budget projections in the RCMP proposal – $4.7 million for 2013 – don't tell the entire story.

They do not include "optional specific services" such as bike patrol units, victims services or the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, a key component in complex homicide and drugs investigations.

Although she wasn't able to identify which services Esquimalt could have done without, Desjardins said switching to RCMP policing would nonetheless have saved $2 million a year.

"At the end of the day, to spin it any other way than 'there was a significant difference in cost at an equal level of service,' would be not accurate," she said.

VicPD's proposal includes the full spectrum of police services from its 243-member force, as well as dedicated officers to be stationed in the township's aging public safety building on Park Place.

Desjardins hopes a framework agreement, spearheaded by provincial facilitator Lee Doney, will provide a chance to blend the best of both proposals for the township.

VicPD Chief Const. Jamie Graham said his department's proposal is meant to serve as a "foundation on which a final agreement will be built."

The framework agreement will be negotiated in the coming year, while Fortin and Desjardins continue to push the province and other municipalities on regional cost-sharing for policing.

"Everybody benefits, so everybody should share the load," Desjardins said.

2010 cost for policing per resident:

Victoria: $433

Esquimalt: $356

Oak Bay: $241

Saanich: $214

Sidney (RCMP): $200

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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