Sooke and seven other South Island municipalities complain about the operating costs of E-Comm’s call pickup and dispatch services. These municipalities should be the last to complain; they’ve had a really good deal for years.
Prior to the CRD building the new 911 dispatch center, the eight South Island RCMP detachments were “dispatched by” civilian RCMP dispatchers (augmented by CRD personnel). The cost of operating these services was paid for by the province (70 percent) and the federal government (30 percent) – there was no cost recovery from municipalities. Thus, contrary to the letter from the mayors, they have benefited from “free” shipping services for years, well before 2012.
Meanwhile, municipalities with their own police forces on the lower island (Vic / Esquimalt PD, Saanich, Central Saanich and Oak Bay) paid 100% of their dispatch costs without any provincial or federal support. They signed contracts with E-Comm in 2019 (Esquimalt was included with Victoria) and started paying for these services in March 2019, and have gradually phased out their own dispatch centers.
Now the province expects municipalities served by the RCMP to start paying for this service, which will put them on a level playing field. It seems fair. Why would the eight continue to receive this service for free? Rather, they should be happy to have saved a lot of money over the many years of “free” shipping services and continue to factor those costs into their 2022 budgets.
Under the Police Act, it is the responsibility of municipalities to pay for policing services – it is unfair for the province / federal government to provide dispatch services free of charge to certain municipalities (those served by the RCMP) without doing it for those who have municipal forces. The 2020 financial information statements for the five municipalities with their own forces (the first full year that the 911 center was operational) shows what they paid E-Comm for police dispatch services: Central Saanich ( $ 267,030), Oak Bay ($ 308,134), Saanich ($ 2,004,740), Victoria / Esquimalt ($ 3,502,234).
Sooke and the rest of the RCMP have had a “free ride” on this service for years and now they’re complaining? The five municipalities with their own police services are the ones that should complain.
Colin Nielsen, Member of the Board of Directors
Grumpy Taxpayer $ of Greater Victoria