Prince George city council added its voice to ranks of B.C. municipalities concerned over the cost of a collective agreement negotiated by the National Police Federation and the federal government.
In August, RCMP members ratified the six-year deal, which includes a 23.78 per cent pay increase for RCMP members. The contract is retroactive to 2017, and municipalities are required to make a one-time payment to members to cover the cost of pay increases from 2017 to 2021.
On Monday, Prince George director of finance Kris Dalio told council the total cost of the retroactive payment is roughly $6.5 million.
The RCMP advised the city to set aside 2.5 per cent per year to cover the cost of the negotiated wage increase, leaving the city with $4 million in an account to use toward the retroactive payment, Dalio said. The $2.5 million remaining is equivalent to about a two per cent increase to the city’s property tax levy.
In addition, going forward in 2022, the city will see a significant cost increase per member, Dalio added.
“We have no choice, we have to pay,” Coun. Brian Skakun said. “That is a cost we can’t absorb. That is huge, we need some help.”
In a letter dated Nov. 5, Mayor Lyn Hall and the mayors of Kelowna, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Nanaimo, Penticton, Richmond, Surrey, Vernon and West Kelowna called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other senior federal ministers to meet with the B.C. municipalities to discuss the situation.
Municipalities with populations greater than 15,000, including Prince George, are required to pay 90 per cent of their contracted policing costs with the RCMP, while the federal government covers the other 10 per cent.
“We ask that the federal government consider an equal cost-sharing approach to offset the financial implications of the sudden implementation of the 23.78 per cent raise and retroactive pay of the RCMP’s first collective agreement,” the mayors said in the letter. “We ask the federal government to pay a minimum of 50 per cent of the retroactive pay associated costs.”
Coun. Terri McConnachie said being hit with a two per cent tax increase just to cover the retroactive payments during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is “just impossible.”
“It’s quite flabbergasting,” she said. “The most galling part is we were not part of the conversation in any way.”
Coun. Kyle Sampson put forward a motion, calling on the city to write a second letter asking for a meeting with the prime minister and federal ministers separately, to discuss the issues specifically related to Prince George.
“It’s going to be very difficult to make this work,” Sampson said, but Prince George is in a better financial position than many B.C. municipalities.
“These (the letter signatories) are mayors of large communities,” Coun. Cori Ramsay said. “We’re not just advocating for our size communities, but all communities.”
Coun. Murry Krause said their concern isn’t about the value of the service the RCMP provide.
“All of us value the work of the RCMP, it’s a matter of how we pay the bill,” he said.
Hall was not at the city council meeting on Monday.