The days of the RCMP in Alberta, as we know it, may be numbered.
Annually, the mayors and reeves of Alberta line up at municipal conventions to meet with the RCMP top management to lobby for more RCMP members to live in and serve their respective communities. The mayors and reeves also know full well that there are not enough officers to meet all the demands across Canada. Jurisdictions in Canada and Alberta who have been using RCMP as their main police force, over time know that the requests for more officers have been unfulfilled for years. There are inadequate numbers of young RCMP recruits and simply not enough new RCMP members graduating from the training headquarters at the Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan.
As the mayors and reeves continue to lobby for officers for their communities, they also know Ottawa will charge each of these municipalities about $150,000 per additional RCMP member and there simply are not enough officers to fill the demands. The municipal councils are fully aware that their requests for members will not be fulfilled. At the same time, many elected officials are opposing the possibility of a made-in-Alberta police force. In fact, the Alberta Municipalities Association (mostly urbans) have actually taken an official position to oppose the RCMP being replaced with an Alberta police force. Where is the compromise?
The RCMP is well known worldwide and have been a source of helping deepen our Canadian brand and bragging rights. The reputation of Canadian policing has been remarkable since the North-West Mounted Police was formed in 1873 (RCMP was founded in 1920).
But the romance with the RCMP may be changing. As new Canadians and new generations have less and less experience with and loyalty to the RCMP, or knowledge of the RCMP each passing day, new citizens have less affinity to the red serge. So do new voters.
Additionally, the “brand” of the RCMP has had some setbacks with internal alleged misconduct and the mishandling of high profile and difficult cases such as the multiple murder case in Nova Scotia in 2020.
It is difficult to know if a future without the RCMP in Alberta will yield better or worse results than the RCMP service has provided. Certainly the Ontario and Quebec experiences are being studied as to the effectiveness and costs when contrasted to potential similar implementation in Alberta.
The future of the Alberta RCMP Headquarters (K-Division) (1932), the RCMP Musical Ride (1887) and the love affair with the uniform (1873) may be disappearing, and with that, another of the many foundations of Canada may be disappearing. For many it will be a sad day in Alberta. For others it will be a welcome change.
The 2023 Alberta election results on May 29 may assist in making the next steps occur quickly such that there is a resolution one way or another. Regardless of the decision, this matter may very well become a key aspect of the 2027 Alberta provincial election. Decisions, and any possible transitions, on this critical matter may very well take years.
Time has seen many transitions in Canada and indeed Albertans and Canadians have weathered and endured. It remains to be seen if this is one more in a long list of disappearing traditions.