Stratford mayor speaks out on Ottawa's downloading of RCMP backpay
The mayor of Stratford says some much-needed improvements in the town may have to wait as a result of last month's federal budget.
The town had been asking the Trudeau government to pay new policing costs resulting from a recent collective bargaining agreement involving the RCMP, which provides policing services to Stratford.
But after the federal budget was tabled at the end of March, the town is on the hook for $188,000 — or six years of retroactive pay for RCMP employees serving Stratford.
"It amounts to a park or a park upgrade or some sidewalk or active transportation trail, or another RCMP member, which was considered this year," Stratford Mayor Steve Ogden said Thursday. "All those things would have been possible if this were not an expense that was given to the municipalities."
About $1.1 million of the town's $9-million annual budget is spent on policing, according to Ogden. Six full-time RCMP officers currently serve in Stratford.
The federal government pays 30 per cent of Stratford's policing costs.
We had a contract with their employer, with the federal government, to provide policing at a certain cost. And that changed without notice. — Steve Ogden, Stratford's mayor
"RCMP members earn every penny ... it's well deserved," said Ogden. "It's just that we had a contract with their employer, with the federal government, to provide policing at a certain cost. And that changed without notice and without involvement of our municipality."
The Town of Cornwall will shoulder about $130,000 in additional policing costs for its RCMP contract as a result of the same federal development.
In Stratford, the bill comes to about $17 per person. In Cornwall it's about $20.
The provincial Department of Justice and Public Safety said in a statement that this issue was first flagged in 2021, when a new RCMP contract was under negotiation. The province was told that local partners should "plan and budget for expected salary increases that could also allow for retroactive pay" being awarded.
Municipalities were expecting they would be able to take five years to pay the retroactive amount, but it turned out to be just two years.
In a statement to CBC News last month, the federal Finance Department said it had provided a two-year, interest-free payment plan for the municipalities in recognition of the budget restraints they may face.
National lobbying underway
The Canadian Federation of Municipalities is leading a national effort to push back on the downloading of retroactive RCMP policing costs.
Many communities across Canada have contracts for RCMP policing services, similar to Stratford and Cornwall.
On P.E.I., the national police force has jurisdiction everywhere except Charlottetown, Summerside and Kensington.
Stratford council will vote on a motion to voice opposition to the cost increase to municipalities, according to Ogden.