Positive local RCMP relationship noted as contract renewed

Whistler's policing costs to increase less than one per cent this year: RMOW

With the RCMP contract renewed last week by the provincial and federal governments, Whistler and Pemberton's long-standing relationship with the Sea to Sky regional detachment is set to continue for at least two more decades.

Municipal officials have raised concerns in recent years about increasing local costs for policing. But under the new contract, Whistler's RCMP bill is set to rise by just 0.87 per cent in 2012-'13, with a further 3.67 per cent increase slated for 2015-'16, according to numbers provided by the municipality.

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The Resort Municipality of Whistler's current annual RCMP bill is about $3.26 million, which is 70 per cent of the overall cost. The federal government picks up the remaining 30 per cent. Additionally, any overtime hours are paid by the RMOW and come out of the Additional Hotel Room Tax.

Perhaps the biggest change under the new contract is municipalities will now have more of a say when it comes to financial coordinating and planning, as the RCMP is now responsible for increased financial reporting.

"There's a more modernized relationship where we've strengthened accountability and governance and have supporting consultation, that type of thing," said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP.

The new agreement follows months of debate across the province about whether or not the RCMP is suitable for certain municipalities, or if, like Vancouver, the creation of independent police forces should be considered.

In Whistler, no such discussions were seriously pursued leading up to the contract renewal and LeClair said he's happy to continue working with the RMOW.

"I've been here for five years and I think we have a very good relationship with the RMOW," said LeClair. "We work together quite collaboratively in policing matters, particularly in events. We start with the First Night and work our way into the Telus World Ski and Snowboard fest, Crankworx, and the list of minor and major events goes on. So we work quite closely with the municipality in projecting policing costs for those events."

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden echoed LeClair's sentiments.

"We have a good relationship with the RCMP detachment these days," said Wilhelm-Morden in an email. "Steve LeClair, as the on-site senior officer, is very engaged and responsive."

As for the costs, Wilhelm-Morden said the expense of policing is always a concern when it relates to the municipal budget.

"We are tied in to the provincial contract, so although we're appreciative that it's been renewed, the cost of policing services generally is a continuing pressure on our budget, like many other towns and cities in this province," she said.

While the Sea to Sky regional detachment is considered to be one body, LeClair said policing is somewhat separate in Pemberton, with officers there strictly charged to enforce the Village of Pemberton and surrounding area.

And because Pemberton's population is less than 5,000, the village doesn't actually pay for the community's policing.

"Pemberton, being a rural area, the Province actually pays 70 per cent of the policing there and the federal government pays the other 30 per cent, so the village of Pemberton doesn't actually pay for policing," explained LeClair. "If Pemberton wanted to get out of the RMCP policing then they would have to pay for their own policing and that would be very costly."

In the end, LeClair said he is confident the contract renewal will strengthen the relationships between the RCMP and both Whistler and Pemberton.

"In Whistler and Pemberton we have a very good relationship with local government. We meet with them and provide annual updates on stats, we have presentations to council, we do presentations to the Village of Pemberton and Mount Currie," said LeClair. "We're very appreciative of our communities and their support and very proud to be policing both Whistler and Pemberton."

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