Tantramar is not paying for police services it doesn’t get — Treasurer Michael Beal

Tantramar Treasurer Michael Beal

As the RCMP faces a national crisis in staffing shortages, Tantramar Treasurer Michael Beal has confirmed that the local detachment here is also understaffed, but says the town is not being billed for police services it isn’t receiving.

In a report to council on Monday, Beal said that while the former town of Sackville’s federal contract for RCMP police services requires 10 full-time officers, the town paid for only 8.25 officers last year resulting in a saving of $267,703.

He added that by the end of June this year, the town had saved another $98,893.

“On top of this, current status shows 8.53 officers at this time and if this continues to the end of December, it would result in an additional 2023 budget savings of $232,410 for the former Sackville town which could mean savings of $331,303 under what was budgeted,” Beal said.

“Now, this is good from a financial perspective, but not good from a service delivery perspective of course.”

Staff shortages affecting services

Beal’s report follows one to council last month from Sgt. Eric Hanson, the head of the local detachment, who said four of his officers are on long-term sick leave out of the total number of 18.

The detachment polices the former town of Sackville, the former LSDs, Dorchester as well as Memramcook and the Port Elgin area.

“The way our organization works, there’s no replacement for these people,” he said.

Sgt. Eric Hanson speaking to council in August

“There isn’t a pool of RCMP officers that we can borrow from when somebody goes off sick; we just have to bear the weight of their loss.”

Hanson said he was hoping that one of the four would be returning soon, but the other three absences will be lengthy.

“We do apologize, but there’s nothing that I can do about that unfortunately,” he added.

“The others have to pick up the slack and we shuffle the schedule around to try to fill those holes,” he said.

“There’s less traffic work being done; there’s less of that proactive work being done because those who are working are picking up the slack in the investigations and the calls for service that come in.”

Source: RCMP

As the CBC reported last month, the RCMP is falling short of baseline staffing levels across the country, leaving detachments shorthanded and possibly jeopardizing public safety.

While the normal complement of officers in the former town of Sackville is set at 10, the municipal police service agreement (MPSA) states that officers aren’t replaced when they’re off on police training, on vacation or on sick leave unless their illness lasts more than 30 consecutive days.

During the council question period on Monday, Treasurer Beal confirmed that could mean that at any given time, local policing could be below the 8.53 officers.

“I can’t state for a fact, when, how many or if officers are on that short-term [sick] leave right now of zero to 30 days; I can’t state when people take their vacation, that is all managed through the RCMP,” he said.

Beal pointed out, however, that RCMP policing services in the rest of Tantramar — in Dorchester and the former local service districts — are covered under a separate provincial police service agreement (PPSA) and there can be overlap and a sharing of officers as needed.

He added that officers also work overtime to cover shifts and offset vacancies.

“I can even speak to this weekend when I was in through town hall on Saturday and I met a few officers; there were some officers in on overtime doing coverage from other detachments.”

Mayor says policing is adequate

Mayor Black

“I would argue that we are adequately policed,” said Mayor Andrew Black.

“It would be nice if we were back up to our full complement of course.”

He said there was a highly visible police presence during Sackville’s Fall Fair.

“We had countless foot patrols…which was incredible to see. We had two police officers at the field day and at the Farmers’ Market. We had a police officer who came to the lake for Anything That Floats and the sand-castle-making contest. There were foot patrols in other areas of town during the Fall Fair weekend and it was fantastic to see,” Black said.

“Can the police be everywhere all at the same time?” he asked.

“They can’t be. It just depends on what tasks they have and what their coverage is like, but I would say that Sackville is adequately policed.”

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3 Responses to Tantramar is not paying for police services it doesn’t get — Treasurer Michael Beal

  1. Les Hicks says:

    It is reassuring to read that our mayor considers our town adequately policed. It is less reassuring that he makes this assumption based on some visible foot patrols during our town’s annual fall fair. It would be interesting to know if these extra foot patrols during the fall fair events were specifically requested by town council. Are they representative of the level of policing that we see over the course of a year? According to the commanding officer of our town’s local detachment, who admitted, “There’s less traffic work being done; there’s less of that proactive work being done because those who are working are picking up the slack in the investigations and the calls for service that come in.” Well, they are not.

    Considering other misleading comments that our mayor has made at town council meetings concerning issues such as council’s supposed inability to prevent development in flood prone areas or its supposed inability to institute anti-idling by-laws, residents are left to wonder what facts, if any, he bases these generalizations on.

    In addition, there are also the concerns raised when, in the first town council meeting of the new entity of Tantramar, he violated the town’s procedural by-law by overruling the town councillors who all voted to add the election of the deputy mayor to the meeting agenda. (There is the additional question of why the election of the deputy mayor, required by the procedural by-law, was omitted from the official meeting agenda). This action on his part also appears to violate the Provincial Local Governance Act that states “the mayor is subject to the direction and control of council and shall abide by the decisions of council.” Overall, this is not a very auspicious start to his first term as mayor.

  2. Wayne Feindel says:

    The Mayor is the voice of council. Legally Council is supreme. When he speaks about any issue he has to make it clear it is a personal opinion. To not make that clear he opens himself up to a code of conduct complaint. So I take it that council believes police coverage is adequate? Yes or No!

    Note from Bruce Wark: During the public question period I asked the mayor and council for any comment about “policing services in town [i.e. Sackville], the speeding enforcement is a perennial complaint,” I said, “the inability or difficulty getting in touch with the police here is another one. There’s just a general perception that the town is not getting the policing that it needs and I’m just wondering how you feel about that.”

    Mayor Black responded: “I can certainly comment on the RCMP, but is there any councillors who wanted to, the question was asked I think of the mayor and council. If there’s any councillors who wanted to speak to the RCMP, you’re certainly welcome to, but I have a comment that I can make. The mayor then waited a few seconds and then, when no councillors indicated they had anything to say, he made the comments that I quoted in the article.

    • Wayne Feindel says:

      Where there is no knowledge and no facts to help a council respond, then the Mayor has no opinion being responsible to ensure the councillors have what they need to give an informed comment, otherwise as a citizen I surmise that the service is inadequate and over priced.

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