A police union is touring the province, and they'll soon make a stop in Okotoks.

The 'Keep Alberta RCMP' tour from the National Police Federation (NPF) is aimed at educating Albertans on the implications of transitioning from the RCMP to a provincial police force.

A provincial police force is something the UCP government has had in their sights since their election in 2019, having engaged the public on the prospect on several occasions.

It's been met with opposition and bewilderment from many in the province, including Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn, with concerns over cost and quality of service being raised.

The NPF, which represents around 20,000 RCMP members in Canada and around 3500 in Alberta, says they launched the tour in an effort to provide fact-based information to Albertans, as well as to gather feedback.

According to NPF regional director Kevin Halwa, the switch would mean saying goodbye to hundreds of millions in federal funding on an annual basis.

"Right off the hop, we'll be foregoing a 30 per cent funding subsidy from the federal government that pays for provincial policing. This year, that works out to $185 million a year. That's this year, so next year, as costs go up, maybe it's $190 million, maybe it's $195 million. The point is, we'd be foregoing millions and millions of dollars a year in perpetuity."

Transition costs are also a concern, with an estimated $361 to 377 million to cover the switch.

Halwa says that can quickly balloon, and you only need to look to B.C. to see that.

"The city of Surrey is a great example because they're going through a transition right now. The transition costs were initially estimated at $19 million. They are now at right around $80 million. To put that another way, those costs have gone over by 400 per cent."

The tour will span most of January, with 14 stops.

They've already had a few stops including in Sherwood Park and in Fort Saskatchewan, and Halwa says many people are already well aware of the proposed transition.

"The question that's come up more than a few times is 'why is the provincial government going down this road? Why are they even considering this?' very few people we've talked to are even remotely interested in it."

According to Halwa, it looks like Albertans are already very aware of and opposed to the notion of a provincial police force, with three surveys conducted by the NPF through Polaris Strategic Insights showing 80 per cent support for the RCMP.

The information collected during the tour will be compiled into a report that will be submitted to the provincial government.

The "Keep Alberta RCMP" tour stops in Okotoks on Jan. 18, and will be hosted at the Elks Hall.


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