After two days of meetings between mayors and the province about concerns with the proposed new 20-year RCMP contract, cities that haven't ratified the deal got word they now have another month to sign off on the deal.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the Burnaby NOW that the two biggest things he got out of last week's meetings - Thursday was a tele-conference and Friday was inperson - was that mayors are united in wanting to get certainty on a wide range of issues and there's little likelihood that Burnaby will sign off on its deal before the end of April.
"There's not one single issue that I think is the number 1 issue," said Corrigan. "There's so much uncertainty - a great number of unresolved issues, some big and some smaller, but we are all united in wanting to get more information on what this will cost us and what level of control we have over those costs."
Corrigan said that until Burnaby gets assurances that cost concerns are being looked at, the city won't be signing off on the deal.
The province had originally set April 30 as its preferred deadline but extended that to May 31 after Friday's meeting.
"No, I don't see us doing anything before April 30," said Corrigan. "I'm doubtful that the province and the feds can look at and address the issues we raised by the end of this month.
"We don't care if the province wants the deal ratified by (a certain date)," said Corrigan. "The resolution of the unresolved issues is much more important. - You have to remember, the provincial government has to sign a deal with us and what I'm saying is until we get the issues resolved, we're not going to sign off on the deal."
Corrigan said one issue he would like an answer to is how much individual municipalities would have to pay for the proposed new RCMP building in Surrey.
"We were originally told we wouldn't have to pay anything for that," said Corrigan. "That's a pretty big unresolved issue."
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was the civic observer in negotiating the new policing contract, said about 12 cities have signed so far, with approximately 50 more having to sign off soon.
"I think the contract we negotiated is the best one we can expect at this stage," said Fassbender. "I, too, still have questions, but I think with any new contract and any new relationship, there is going to be some uncertainty.
"I think the question for local governments is, are you prepared to sign the deal, roll up your sleeves and work on making the deal work? If you're waiting to get absolute certainty, I think you'll be waiting a long time."
Fassbender said he believes the deal B.C. signed with the feds is among the best any province or territory signed.
"Alberta and Saskatchewan signed a bilateral agreement that is nowhere near what we signed," said Fassbender. "We got a better deal, with better enhancements, better accountability and a management committee to look at issues."
He said the one-month extension will give cities more time to look at not only the master agreement but the companion document that is akin to an executive summary of the master agreement.
"If municipalities have technical questions about what is in these documents, now they have time to get those questions answered," said Fassbender.
Two other mayors present for last week's meetings also offered their thoughts.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart admits it's not perfect, but he said Coquitlam is ready to sign on to the 20-year RCMP contract.
Despite revelations earlier this month the new contract would come with increased costs for wages, the mayor is confident the deal is the best municipalities would get.
"I'm comfortable with the agreement as it stands," Stewart said.
He said the new contract deals with some of the outstanding issues in which municipalities had concerns, like improvements to cost controls.
Stewart also noted the change in the contract would not likely affect this year's budget as the city anticipated some kind of increase to its policing budget.
The proposed contract with the RCMP has municipalities paying annual raises of 1.75 per cent, 1.5 per cent and two per cent, starting Jan. 1 of this year.
Stewart said he wants to give his fellow council colleagues a chance to review the contract before the city officially signs the deal.
He also blasted some of the mayors - without naming them - for blaming the province for the problems in the contract and using the issue in a partisan way.
"We need to take it as a serious issue and move forward in getting the best policing model," he said.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore isn't quite ready to sign off on the deal. Moore said the city wants to wait for a response to a letter the mayors sent to the province's solicitor general outlining the group's concerns.
He called the manner in which the cost increases were communicated to the mayors "a concern," adding cost accountability and communication were the big issues from the last contract.
"It's really brought into question for a lot of us (mayors), what's changed?" Moore asked.
He said the city is still reviewing the contract to figure out what kind of an impact the increased costs will have on the overall budget.
He said part of the problem is the province and federal government had five years to negotiate a contract, but municipalities are given only a couple months to sign it.
Moore said he hopes the province will extend the May 31 deadline if the answers to the mayors' questions don't come by that time.
As for what weight Fassbender puts on Corrigan's comments, Fassbender said he respects the opinions of all mayors, including the ones who disagree with him.
"He's got a point of view, and I respect that," he said. "I know how many hours I spent at the table, and I can say I looked out for the interests of all municipalities, including Burnaby.
"It is what it is. They (Burnaby) can take the position they want, and I will respect that. - This was the best deal that we could get.
"It's time to roll up your sleeves and get on with the job."
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