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The federal government has strict criteria when it comes to a municipality signing a contract with the RCMP.

A decision by Saint John city council to look at the process and costs involved in switching to the RCMP for policing may not get very far.

The federal government would likely not consider an RCMP deal with the city at this time, according to an emailed statement from Public Safety Canada spokesman Jean Paul Duval.

Bad relations between any city and local police force is a non-starter, he said.

Only municipalities "not involved or likely to be involved in a labour dispute with its police force," will be considered.

Saint John is currently locked in contract negotiations with the union representing the Saint John Police Force.

The Saint John Police Association applied to the provincial government for arbitration in September and alleges the latest move by council is a bid to interfere.

Association president Jamie Hachey has said he plans to file a complaint with the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board, alleging "extortion" by the employer.

In addition, a municipality not previously policed by the RCMP must have a population of less than 15,000 people to be considered by Public Safety Canada, said Duval.

Saint John's population currently stands at about 70,000, meaning the city does not meet RCMP guidelines.

Still, Mayor Mel Norton stands by council's decision to ask city staff for a report on the issue.

"It's essentially a request for a report on a report, it's one of the most benign questions that someone could ask," he said.

"So the kind of questions you're raising are the kinds of questions that council has in its own mind and the kind of questions our skilled management will be able to provide us answers to."

Norton says the motion puts taxpayers first.

"We have a spending problem in Saint John and the recent budget highlights that what's happening in protective services is not sustainable," said Norton, whose vote broke the council tie on the motion.

The 2014 police budget increased by $1 million to almost $24 million.

Deputy Mayor Shelley Rinehart, who voted against, says there should have been more questions and answers before the vote.

"We didn't have the opportunity to have a discussion and that's unfortunate," she said.

City staff are still working on a report

It could take several weeks, Norton said.