Saint John policing cost analysis raises pension questions
Police union, police commission say future of shared-risk model unclear with possible switch to RCMP
The union representing Saint John police officers and the head of the police commission are raising questions about what a switch to the RCMP would do to the city's new shared-risk pension plan.
The plan, approved in 2012, reduced the city's pension deficit and gave taxpayers more time to pay down the rest. The city's pension deficit had been estimated at $195 million.
But a changeover to the RCMP could require the police portion of the plan to be fully funded before being wound down. Police officers and 911 operators represent about 25 per cent of the plan's members.
Christopher Waldshutz, chair of the police commission, said removing more than 100 officers from the pension contribution pool would leave the new plan in a state of uncertainty.
"How does that leave the pension?" Waldshutz said. "What happens … to that premium paying role because they will now be paying into the RCMP pension?"
Police association president Jamie Hachey said if the city switches policing to the RCMP it would be left with far fewer workers than retires in the pension plan.
Hachey suspects the municipality would lose permission to pay its pension deficit down over time.
"How can you ever save money with a $120 million pension payment that comes due with a significant reorganization? We wouldn't be able to afford it as a city," he said.
Coun. Shirley McAlary also has questions about the affordability of such a move. McAlary said she is not in favour of a switch to the RCMP, however, she concedes the pension issue isn't necessarily a deal breaker.
McAlary says some kind of arrangement could likely be worked out to cushion the blow on taxpayers, but only with help from the provincial government.
"We would have to wind up a partial part of the plan if we were to lose that many employees," she said.
"And we wouldn't be able to afford it as a city."
The City of Saint John voted on Monday to take a serious look at switching to the RCMP for police protection.
The move comes as the city is locked in contract negotiations with the union representing the Saint John Police Force.
The union alleges city council is trying to interfere in contract negotiations between the union and the city's police commission