The Pundits Are Wrong
If you’ve been reading the news lately, you’ve probably seen very superficial coverage of the Premier’s Mandate Letters.
In some cases, what’s actually in the letters has been ignored altogether in order to talk about what’s not in them.
But, our team took the time to read and analyze every letter and we’ve been very pleased to see provincial autonomy take center stage in the Premier’s directives to her Ministers.
Early last week, the letters for key ministers Mickey Amery (Minister of Justice) and Mike Ellis (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services) were released.
The media focused on the fact that neither of the letters mentioned the implementation of an Alberta Police Service.
In late 2022, Smith’s mandate letters to her previous Justice Minister (then Tyler Shandro) and Public Safety Minister Ellis instructed the pair to work in concert with the Minister of Municipal Affairs to establish an Alberta Police Service.
So, the pundits have taken this to mean the Alberta government has dropped the intention to transition away from the RCMP.
This is misleading.
While the explicit mention of an Alberta Police Service was omitted from the letters this year, there's a key point in the Public Safety letter - increased funding to study municipal policing models.
Ellis’ mandate letter outlined some potential changes to the policing model - including increased sheriff development in municipalities to assist with enforcement, as well as exploring community policing options.
Alberta cities Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge already have their own police services, giving their respective city administrations policy control and more freedom to address local issues instead of waiting for the Ottawa bureaucracy to make policing decisions.
The City of Grande Prairie announced last year that they were establishing a police force, becoming the first Alberta community since 1956 to transition away from the RCMP.
The Alberta government clearly expects more municipalities to follow.
In April, Ellis also announced that the Alberta government would be providing $6 million over the next two years for Indigenous and Municipal Police Transition Study Grants.
“No one knows a community’s needs better than the people who live there,” said Ellis. “This funding will empower municipalities to explore different policing models that will improve public safety and address their community’s unique needs.”
The grants will provide the means to conduct research into local public safety needs, locate gaps in the current policing models, and find out how much a potential transition will cost.
This research will also establish a framework for each municipality to transition away from the RCMP
It's becoming more and more obvious why we need to do this.
Staffing shortages in the federal force are a serious problem.
In Alberta, the vacancy rate (the difference in number of officers the force is contracted to provide in the agreement and the number of officers on the force) sits at 15%.
As a result, the RCMP has been unable to properly address the rise in rural crime in Alberta.
Transitioning will give each community the ability to build a local police force that reflects the needs of their communities, and give policy control back to those who are impacted most - the people.
Each successful transition will help build the case for the creation of an Alberta Police Service.
Just because the transition is not directly mentioned in the mandate letters does not mean that the idea has died.
It means that the Alberta government is taking a slow, deliberate approach to policing and doing its due diligence when it comes to providing better public safety.
However, the slow approach also means that we must remain steadfast in our commitment to advocating for an Alberta Police Service.
The Canadian Federation of Police, the union that represents RCMP officers, as well as a host of other left-leaning advocacy groups and think tanks, has spent the last few years doggedly building opposition to the idea.
They’ve spent millions of dollars on advertising and other avenues.
We are outgunned and outmanned.
We are going to continue to stand our ground, but we need your help.
Together, we can keep the government on task, remove federal intrusion into provincial affairs, and defend the interests of our great province.
The Free Alberta Strategy Team