Replacing RCMP with Alberta police force would cost more but could be more locally responsive: report

A provincial police force could cost Albertans hundreds of millions of dollars more each year, and result in a four per cent increase in the number of police officers on the street, according to a report commissioned by the province.

Provincial government says it will consult the public on whether to proceed

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) cadets stand at a graduation ceremony at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division in Regina on June 5, 2017.
The report says cost savings and other initiatives would ultimately allow for more frontline officers to be hired if Alberta cut ties with the RCMP. (Valerie Zink/Reuters)

Replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force could cost Albertans hundreds of millions of dollars more each year, and result in a four per cent increase in the number of police officers on the street, according to a report commissioned by the province.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report, presented to the government last April and released publicly on Friday, provides no precise figure on how much more Albertans would pay for their own police force should they lose the $170 million the federal government contributes yearly for policing by the RCMP.

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said a provincial police force would be more efficient and cost effective by relying on Alberta government support services.

"And while the challenges are not insignificant, we believe that a made-in Alberta provincial police service is worth serious consideration," Madu said at a news conference.

The report's assumptions are based on the province no longer receiving federal funding for police, according to the justice department.

Adopting a provincial police force would take up to six years — four years of planning and preparation, and up to two years of transitioning an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) in, and the RCMP out.

PwC estimates the cost of that transition at between $366 million to $371 million.

It suggests that officers' pay be in line with municipal police officers in Alberta, not RCMP salaries, which are rising.

Madu said the report contains innovative ideas that would help address some of rural Albertans' concerns about the RCMP, help address some of the root causes of crime, and embed nurses and mental health professionals into the force.

He also said an APPS would be more inclusive of, and responsive to, Indigenous communities.

Madu said no final decision will be made until he and his department conduct consultations across Alberta with Indigenous people, rural communities, crime watch groups, victims services and others.

Critics point to gaps in report, political motivations

The PwC report recommends a provincial police service be overseen by a provincial police commission, which would have at least two government representatives on the board, along with people from rural, urban and Indigenous communities.

The authors say it should also have an independent watchdog, like the existing Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).

The report says Alberta should consider two models, the more expensive one of which relies more heavily on police with more extensive training. It proposes combining Alberta's sheriff service with the provincial police, for a total estimated cost of between $734 million and $758 million per year.

NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir said he is suspicious of the government's motives for replacing the RCMP. The Mounties are still investigating allegations of voting irregularities and fraud in the United Conservative Party's 2017 leadership race.

"It looks like the UCP are moving ahead with this out of their own political interests, not what's in the best interest of all Albertans," Sabir said.

If the NDP were elected, they would not pursue this idea, he said.

Some organizations raised concerns with the potential costs to Albertans of forfeiting federal policing dollars and funding a switchover.

"Albertans deserve to know the full and real cost and community safety impacts of this idea," said National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé in a statement.

The government commissioned the study after its Fair Deal Panel suggested in 2019 a provincially controlled police force could help the province have more autonomy.

The justice ministry said the PwC study cost nearly $1.4 million.

In a video statement posted to YouTube on Friday, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said officers were "fiercely proud" to serve Alberta and will continue to do so until a decision has been reached. 


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.