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Victoria and Esquimalt police talks hit stalemate

It’s been more than a year since Victoria and Esquimalt sat down to hash out a policing framework agreement, a delay Esquimalt’s mayor is calling “beyond belief.”

The framework agreement is part of a mandated process set out in June 2012 by then-B.C. justice minister Shirley Bond, when Esquimalt was told to stick with police services provided by the Victoria Police Department despite the township’s desire to contract RCMP services.

While stakeholders in provincial and municipal governments anticipated the resulting negotiations would be contentious – the province agreed to fund a mediator for the process – no one expected talks to drag on 13 months, said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“We are almost going into the next budget cycle and that is beyond belief that we would still be here,” she said. “It’s really unacceptable to both communities.”

Both parties have been unable to come to terms on the deployment of police services and a shared funding formula, Desjardins said, calling the negotiations “complicated.”

“We want to make sure we get in this process what the community has said they want for policing,” she said.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin declined to comment, citing ongoing negotiations.

Newly appointed Justice Minister Suzanne Anton was unavailable for comment, but a ministry spokesperson said the province remains confident an agreement will be reached and that Anton won’t be intervening at this time. The spokesperson was unable to provide a deadline for negotiations.

“The progress is being monitored closely as ministry staff continue to support this process to ensure both sides have had the opportunity to express their concerns,” the spokesperson said. “There has been considerable progress in most areas … and we are confident that both municipalities will receive appropriate levels of policing.”

The Victoria-Esquimalt policing framework agreement is largely considered the first step towards regional policing in Greater Victoria, a model recommended by missing women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal for both the Capital Region and Metro Vancouver.

The Justice Ministry is currently undertaking a provincewide review of policing services and policies, including the explorations of “further integration of services, while at the same time retaining local community-focused policing.”

Public input for the B.C. Policing and Community Safety Plan is being accepted until Aug. 31 at  bit.ly/1acRlkA or by emailing bcpolicingplan@gov.bc.ca.

The review is expected to be completed by March 2015.

 

 

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