The citizens of the Cowichan Valley shouldn’t notice any difference in the service provided by the local RCMP due to expected cutbacks related to budget deficits, according to police spokeswoman Dawn Roberts.
But Roberts acknowledged that the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, as well as those in Shawnigan Lake and Lake Cowichan, will be expected to look for areas where they can cut back some expenses after the RCMP announced it is cutting more than $10 million from its provincial policing costs this year.
It’s expected those cuts will be coming from small rural detachments, as well as from funding for the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan said in an email last week that provincial policing costs “exceeded our spending authority” last year and “we are forecasting a similar situation this fiscal year.”
She pointed out that the RCMP is not allowed to run a deficit budget in its provincial budget, which is approximately $450 million a year, so it is targeting the smaller detachments across B.C. that receive much of their funding to operate from the province.
That includes the North Cowichan/Duncan detachment, in which the majority of Duncan’s share of the costs to operate are paid by the province, as well as the ones in Lake Cowichan and Shawnigan Lake.
Roberts said the detachments will be expected to freeze their discretionary spending and look for ways to cut costs.
“The detachments will be expected to consider deferring the purchase of new equipment and vehicles if they are not immediately needed, and to consider cuts to overtime and travel budgets, if they are not mandatory or considered critical, as well as other discretionary expenses,” she said.
“We monitor our provincial budgets closely so when concerns were signalled, we made some adjustments to our fiscal year, but the latest reports are that we are still on track for a deficit this year and that’s why were introducing these measures.”
As for the possibility of not filling vacant positions in the detachments as part of the cost savings, Roberts said it is an issue that will likely have to be looked at as well.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s office issued a statement on the RCMP’s deficit problems.
“To be clear, the projected deficit has been communicated to government by the RCMP,” the statement said.
“Budgetary constraints and inflationary impacts have been managed by the RCMP for a number of years through various financial management controls. The impacts are now becoming increasingly difficult for RCMP to manage and we are working with them to address the pressure and to find solutions that do not affect public safety.”