Nova Scotia

RCMP pay raise could be challenging for municipalities, says N.S. federation

New RCMP contract comes into effect April 1, 2022, and is retroactive to 2017.

Federation president says municipalities don't want to compromise safety but struggle to adapt to new costs

An RCMP cruiser car.
An RCMP cruiser is seen in this file photo. Major wage increases are coming for many RCMP officers this spring. (Robert Short/CBC)

Municipalities across the country are bracing for an increase in pay for RCMP officers this spring, including in Nova Scotia where officials may need to call on the province to help shoulder the new costs.

Emily Lutz, president of the Federation of Nova Scotia Municipalities, said one of the issues municipalities face with the looming increase is they don't have the ability to raise revenue without going to the tax base.

"It makes it very difficult for municipalities to be flexible and to adapt when unexpected costs arise," said Lutz, who is also deputy mayor of the Municipality of the County of Kings.

The union that represents RCMP members ratified the new contract this past summer.

Emily Lutz is deputy mayor of the Municipality of the County of Kings and president of the Federation of Nova Scotia Municipalities. (Emily Lutz/Facebook)

It will see salaries for constables increase by as much as $20,000 a year and even more for some staff sergeants. The changes come into effect April 1 and include retroactive increases back to 2017.

Service delivery and return on investment are key issues for municipalities, and Lutz said no municipality wants the increase in the costs for RCMP members to result in an inability to maintain current staffing levels.

"It's an essential service," Lutz said in an interview. "No municipality wants to see compromises to public safety."

The mandate letter of Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr includes renegotiating the memorandum of understanding with municipalities, as well as reviewing the Municipal Act and charters "with a goal of refining the delivery and governance model for all municipalities in the province."

Lutz said she expects policing costs to be part of that discussion.

Lohr said Thursday he hasn't heard any direct concerns about the cost of policing, but he's aware money is a concern for at least some municipalities in Nova Scotia.

"Obviously, they were very appreciative of the fact that we did double the financial capacity grant this year," he said in an interview at Province House.

A man in a suit sits in front of a Nova Scotia flag.
Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr says he's open to hearing concerns from municipalities about the costs of policing services. (CBC)

Last December, former justice minister Mark Furey said he wanted to launch a review of police services in the province, in large part out of concerns over the potential increases that would come with a new RCMP contract.

What's happened with that review is unclear. Furey stepped down from his post in February after announcing he would not seek re-election.

In a recent interview, Justice Minister Brad Johns said the only police services review he's aware of is the one happening as part of the mass casualty commission, which is looking into the circumstances related to the mass shooting in Nova Scotia in April 2020.

"Through that, there will be an examination of policing services and the mandate for Nova Scotians," said Johns.

Last December, Furey said he'd initiated talks within the department about provincial policing service models, but Johns said he'll wait to see what comes from the mass casualty commission, as well as what he hears from municipalities, before determining whether to consider that option.

The province's contract with the RCMP runs until 2032, although there are out clauses.

Lutz said she has noticed more talk among her municipal colleagues in the province during the last year about the idea of a provincial force.