Mahone Bay Town Council to hold Special Meeting on RCMP services

(Mahone Bay Town Hall. Photo: Sal Falk)

In light of significant increases to the Town of Mahone Bay’s police services budget, Mahone Bay Town Council will meet in July to discuss the value of RCMP services. A Special Meeting of Council exploring this issue will occur more than one year after council passed a motion to review the topic.

Deputy Mayor asked council to consider value of RCMP services in context of increased costs

A motion to convene a Special Council meeting on this topic first passed on November 9, 2021. The motion came during a discussion after receiving the draft minutes of the October 28, 2021 meeting of the Police Advisory Board (PAB).

The PAB report included The Town of Mahone Bay Quarterly Statistics which notes the number of occurrences of different types of crime in Q2 and Q3 of 2021.

During the review of the statistics, Councillor Penny Carver noted, “Despite the fact that people have been complaining on Facebook that the police are not managing traffic issues, [the] numbers seem to show that they are doing something.” As of the end of September 2021 there were 39 observed speeding violations.

Deputy Mayor Francis Kangata asked council to consider the wider context of the statistics review. The Town was expecting increased costs for contracting RCMP services.

“As stewards of the town, we look at the increase and we ask ourselves – are we going to say, ‘Yes, you’re the federal government, you run this show, you tell us what to pay and you pay up,’ or are we going to say, ‘Well, let’s think about whether you’re giving us value for money,’ ” said Kangata.

Councillor Alice Burdick inquired whether this was a matter for the PAB to discuss or for a staff report.

Councillor Joseph Fenney said, “I’m all for doing the due diligence, just my perspective at this point […] small towns running their own police department in 2022-2025, no, I don’t think so, that doesn’t make sense to me.”

A motion by Councillor Carver, seconded by Councillor Burdick stating, “THAT Council direct staff to develop a draft engagement plan in respect to Police Services to be presented to Council for review” was the first proposed motion during the November meeting, but was defeated. 

Councillor Joseph Feeney said he was scared of “opening Pandora’s Box” by soliciting public engagement.

Council instead passed a motion to convene a Special Meeting “in the new year.” As of May 2023, council has not convened on the matter.

The meeting is scheduled for July 21.

‘I think we’re going to see some real changes in people dropping out of the RCMP agreements,’ says councillor ahead of unknown retroactive RCMP costs 

The Town of Mahone Bay currently contracts policing services through the Provincial Police Service Agreement with the RCMP. Under this agreement, Nova Scotia municipalities and the provincial government retain a 70/30 cost-sharing model with the federal government. The majority of municipalities in Nova Scotia who contract the RCMP for police services use this model.

The provincial agreement is a 20-year contract signed in 2012 at a value of $100 million. According to a 2012 news release from the Province of Nova Scotia, the agreement also includes a two-year escape clause for municipalities that want to opt-out and create a municipal police force.

During the November 2021 council meeting Dylan Heide, Chief Administrative Officer with Town of Mahone Bay remarked, “There’s no way we can meet the provincial requirements for policing more cost effectively than we are under the RCMP.”

Heide was the CAO for the Town of Shelburne in 2018 when they solicited a proposal from the Town of Bridgewater to replace their RCMP services with the Bridgewater Police Service. Shelburne contracts policing services directly with the RCMP and not through the provincial agreement.

Despite projected savings of $100,000/year, there was no move from the Town of Shelburne to explore the proposal further and the RCMP contract was renewed.

The 2022/23 Town of Mahone Bay budget slated $380,030 for RCMP costs, about 6.2 per cent of the Town’s $6.04 million operating budget.

There are expected sharp increases in RCMP costs in coming years as the federal government made a decision in its 2023 budget to make municipalities responsible for all retroactive costs coming out of the latest RCMP collective bargaining agreement.

At the May 9 Regular Council Meeting, Councillor Lohnes-Croft told council about her experience participating in discussions at the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities Spring Conference earlier this month.

“How many times did we hear at the conference last week how we’re paying the bill but the feds and the province are the only ones at the negotiating table,” said Lohnes-Croft. 

“We heard that theme over and over and over again. People are not happy and I think we’re going to see some real changes in people dropping out of the RCMP agreements.”

Between the unknown retroactive cost, the discussions from the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities Spring Conference, and a conflicting budget meeting, Council decided to move the May 19 Special Council Meeting to July 21 in hopes of having more information.

The Town of Mahone Bay could choose to leave the provincial agreement, giving the necessary two year notice. The town would have options for replacing the services, including launching a tender process, soliciting a proposal for joining the Bridgewater Police Service, or creating a new municipal police services model.


One response to “Mahone Bay Town Council to hold Special Meeting on RCMP services”

  1. Douglas G Langley

    Mahone Bay proposed RCMP Service agreement of $402,990 means the real RCMP Fee to taxpayers is $1.34 million based on the 30/70 sharing formula.

    Is the service agreement available? If not, why not? Without the agreement is not possible for the public to offer constructive comments.

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