VICTORIA – With the B.C. government poised to sign a new 20-year agreement for RCMP services, B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins says there needs to be an independent review of a force he calls "inept and outdated."
That characterization comes from a report from former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford, a now a B.C. Conservative member living in Qualicum Beach. Peckford undertook the project as a volunteer, speaking with experts and reviewing the history of policing in B.C.
Peckford found it "disturbing" that no B.C. auditor general has done a value-for-money audit of RCMP services in the province where one third of Mounties work. He also referred to an inquiry conducted by for former B.C. attorney general and judge Wally Oppal for the NDP government in 1994, which called for "fundamental changes" to make the force more responsive to the needs of B.C. communities.
Peckford, who once expanded the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to replace the RCMP in the St. John's region, said the past 20 years have changed Canadian policing dramatically. Since 9/11 and the rise of terrorism, national and international security duties have put far more pressure on the RCMP, he said.
"To still be able to concentrate on how I'm going to police Kitimat or Fort Nelson or Tofino, at the same time as I need to deal with sophisticated things on a national and international level, seems to be stretching it a little bit," Peckford said.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond said Tuesday that provincial negotiators are making progress to meet Wednesday's deadline for an agreement to extend RCMP services to B.C. communities.
Bond has been stressing the need for more accountability for costs borne by municipalities, through a contract management committee. The new contract would also likely contain an opt-out clause.
Cummins said if his party forms a new B.C. government, he will order an independent review of the service and consider returning to the B.C. provincial policing model. He praised the dedication of RCMP members, but said their structure is out of step with modern times.
There are 150 communities in B.C. served by the RCMP, and along with the provincial government, B.C. taxpayers contribute more than $780 million a year to the costs.