Victoria and Esquimalt mayors are joining the push to make regional policing a key issue in the upcoming provincial election.
Politicians from the two municipalities have endorsed a police board decision to create a business case for regional policing in Greater Victoria.
The issue was raised by Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham, who urged board members to make a push while the public’s attention is still drawn to recommendations from Wally Oppal, the missing women inquiry commissioner.
Both mayors — Dean Fortin of Victoria and Barb Desjardins in Esquimalt — want to see provincial politicians take a leadership role in regional policing discussions.
“As a taxpayer and as a municipal politician, I’ll be discussing this leading up to the provincial election,” Fortin said.
He and Desjardins added their voices to the call from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who said Tuesday that he wants regional policing to be the top issue in the May 14 election.
Premier Christy Clark said she is open to discussing it, but she puts the onus on municipal politicians to come up with a model their taxpayers want.
“There’s a huge diversity of opinion amongst local mayors who foot the bill,” she told reporters in Vancouver. “We need to somehow bridge the gap between those mayors who are passionately in favour and those mayors who are passionately opposed.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young applauded the business case idea, but said he is not interested in considering a new policing model unless it costs less than the contract his municipality has with the RCMP.
He said the Victoria and Esquimalt model, where one police force serves both communities, has not been ideal.
Esquimalt put out a call for new police service in March 2011, after years of complaining about rising costs, slow response times and poor service by Victoria police.
It eventually opted for a new contract with the RCMP, but that decision was overturned by the province, forcing the town to work out a new deal with Victoria police.
Desjardins knows that the two communities must work out their issues, so they can use this model as an example for the rest of the region.
“We have to get our agreement and our relationship in order, if we’re going to convince others that this is going to work,” Desjardins said.
“There’s a lot riding on Esquimalt and Victoria pulling together and doing this right.”
Young, who is the top politician in the fastest growing municipality in the province, said Victoria and Esquimalt may have to prove the model works with another community before he’s willing to get on board.
“You’ve got seven or eight municipalities using the RCMP already, so maybe they should go to Saanich and see if it works there before they push to go regionwide,” he said.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard has long been an opponent of regional policing. He repeatedly campaigned on keeping a strong community police department with integrated regional units.
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