One day after Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the Burnaby NOW that he would be signing off on the new 20-year RCMP contract "under protest" and "under duress," Justice Minister Shirley Bond is presenting the government's side of the story.
In a Wednesday morning email, Bond said:
"It is important to clarify comments made by the mayor of Burnaby on Tuesday afternoon. A letter, sent by the director of police services, laid out the facts regarding the legal obligations that municipalities have to comply with the Police Act. While it did include information about potential costs that would accrue if compliance was not reached, it also included an offer to continue to work constructively with municipalities as they explored the options available to them," said Bond.
"I am disappointed with the politicking that is taking place around this contract. My priority is to ensure that all municipalities have a policing contract in place for their constituents, which is the legal responsibility of the municipality. I have been clear that local governments are welcome to explore other options of policing, however they must meet the requirements of the Police Act while that work is being done."
Burnaby's decision to sign off on the deal comes one day after Coquitlam voted to sign off on the deal. Four other holdout cities in the Lower Mainland have until the end of June to sign off on the deal or risk being in non-compliance with the Police Act.
Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender, who was an observer at the contract talks on behalf of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, said he wasn't surprised that the holdout cities are starting to sign off on the deal.
"Burnaby is making the right decision by signing off on this deal," said Fassbender. "And I think they are doing the sensible thing by doing a study to look into other policing models. ... It just makes sense to be in compliance under the Police Act and then you can explore your options while you're in compliance."
Fassbender said he didn't see any downside to cities like Burnaby signing off on the deal and continuing to look at other policing options.
"I think (Derek) realized that the government wasn't going to back off and there would have been consequences if (Burnaby) was in contravention of the Police Act," said Fassbender. "I think he sees the logic of signing before June 30 and I think he saw the reality of the circumstances the city was in."
North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto also told the Burnaby NOW on Tuesday that his municipality would sign off on the deal before June 30.
"We are going to sign off on this deal," said Mussatto. "We don't want to be intransigent."
Mussatto said hiring a consultant to look at alternative policing models is important because just as Burnaby is exploring the option of working with Vancouver or New Westminster, North Vancouver City is looking into whether a North Shore policing partnership with North Vancouver District and West Vancouver may be an option.
"We would look at the cost benefits of a North Shore (police) force and the efficiencies that could be gained from this," said Mussatto.
Mussatto said his city's decision not to sign off on the deal until now is not indicative of displeasure with the level of service the RCMP has offered.
"We have a very good police service in our city," said Mussatto, "but this was not us playing hardball with the province. ... This was us doing our due diligence in seeing what is best for our city."
Fassbender said with almost all cities now signing off on the deal, they can all work together on making the contract work.
"This was the best contract we could get," said Fassbender. "At the end of the day, I'm glad we can roll up our sleeves and get to work."