Most Albertans satisfied with RCMP service, police federation survey says

Only nine per cent of Albertans say the provincial government should replace the RCMP with a provincial police service, a new survey commissioned by the National Police Federation suggests.

Only 9 per cent of those surveyed said Alberta should get a provincial police force

A member of the RCMP salutes during a ceremony in Calgary in November 2020. (Leah Hennel for CBC)

Only nine per cent of Albertans say the provincial government should replace the RCMP with a provincial police service, according to a new survey commissioned by the National Police Federation.

Conducted online by Pollara between Oct. 27 and Nov. 4, the survey's results suggest that more than 80 per cent of respondents want to keep the RCMP in Alberta — although half of respondents said they want service to improve.

The federation represents about 20,000 RCMP members across Canada.

Kevin Halwa, a Sylvan Lake, Alta.-based regional director for the federation in the Prairies and the North, said the survey results echo what he hears anecdotally from citizens and municipal leaders.

"Not a single person that we talked to is supportive of this move," Halwa said Thursday about the Alberta government's interest in creating a provincial police force.

"And not a single one is believing that this is not going to cost any more."

The survey's results echo what Kevin Halwa, a Sylvan Lake, Alta.-based regional director for the National Police Federation, hears anecdotally from citizens and municipal leaders. (Submitted by National Police Federation)

The online survey canvassed 1,221 randomly selected adult Alberta residents. A margin of error could not be assigned because of the survey method used.

According to the survey, about 80 per cent of Albertans who are served by a local RCMP detachment were very or somewhat satisfied.

The results suggest residents in suburbs around Edmonton were happiest, while people in rural southern Alberta were least satisfied.

It's the third survey the federation has commissioned in the last year that yielded a similar result.

Investigating the possibility of establishing a provincial police force was one of the recommendations of the United Conservative Party government's Fair Deal Panel.

On Oct. 29 — in the middle of the survey period — Justice Minister Kaycee Madu released a $1.4-million provincial police feasibility study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

It found taking over the service would cost the province at least $366 million in transition costs. The province would also lose about $170 million in federal funding it currently receives for the RCMP.

The report said combining administration of provincial police with Alberta sheriffs would make services more cost-efficient, but it didn't provide a dollar figure of how much more the province would have to pay each year.

Premier Jason Kenney has told municipal leaders the cost of a provincial force would not be downloaded onto municipalities — some of which are now paying more for policing due to changes made by the United Conservative Party government.

As of August, more than 30 municipal councils had written to the government expressing support for the RCMP and raising questions about proposed provincial police.

Alex Puddifant, Madu's press secretary, questioned the results of the police federation's survey Thursday.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, he said it is unclear how many people were surveyed before or after Madu released the feasibility study results on Oct. 29.

A spokesperson for Justice Minister Kaycee Madu says there are reasons to doubt the validity of the federation's survey on Alberta policing. (CBC)

PwC proposes a provincial police service that would be "cost-effective, responsive to the needs of Albertans and could better address the root causes of crime," with, for example, the integration of mental health workers, Puddifant said.

He said the majority of respondents to the survey live in Edmonton and Calgary, which are not policed by the RCMP.

Madu has said further consultations are coming before he makes any decision. Puddifant did not specify when the consultations are happening or how they will work.

Halwa said the province's vision relies on recruiting many current Alberta RCMP officers, which may not work.

Many are loyal Mounties, and might prefer to move over leaving the RCMP, he said.

"It's not just as easy as changing the stripe on a pant or changing the decal on a car door," he said.

Alberta RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan said the force is pleased with the survey results. RCMP are best positioned to police rural communities, he said.

Opposition leader Rachel Notley said the government should invest in improving the existing RCMP service in the province rather than creating a new force.

"They should just admit that they've got it wrong and stop wasting everybody's time," Notley said.


Janet French

Provincial affairs reporter

Janet French covers the Alberta Legislature for CBC Edmonton. She previously spent 15 years working at newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. You can reach her at janet.french@cbc.ca.


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