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Only Calgary sees fine revenue as police funding, says the province

The back and forth on Calgary police budgets has been enough to make the most hardened criminals throw up their hands and go on the straight and narrow.

The province has decried that a reallocation of Calgary police budget is a defunding of the city police service – to which they are strongly opposed.

The Calgary Police Commission submitted their proposal for the 2021 budget, and it included $40 million in changes.

Alberta Justice Minster and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu engaged in a feud with Calgary city councillors earlier this week over the supposed “defunding” of Calgary police

Coun. George Chahal responded earlier this week, calling it “dog whistle politics.”

He said Minister Madu “demonstrates total disregard and disrespect for those with differing opinions.”


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Policing grants from the province

The province has two grants to fund municipal police forces: The Municipal Policing Assistance Grant ($16 per capita) and the province’s Police Officer Grant.

The province has maintained from the start that their ongoing grant funding of municipal police forces has remained unchanged. And, they’re right. It hasn’t.

What’s changed is how the province reallocates cash collected through fine revenues. There’s background on that here. Below there’s audio of a 2019 Calgary meeting of council on how interested parties see that funding allocated.

Essentially, the province increased their fine revenue take by 14 per cent through Bill 21. That’s roughly $10 million. But they also made changes to how costs would be changed for biological work (DNA).

Council meeting with police fine revenue funding discussed.

When asked if they see this as a defunding of the Calgary police, the province was firm.

“The province funds municipal police services through two grants, and none of those police grants have been reduced since their inception,” wrote Blaise Boehmer, press secretary to Minister Madu, in an email response.

“Only Calgary Council considered fines to be a revenue generation tool for their police force.”

Provincial act isn’t explicit on revenue going back to cities

According to the province’s Police Offences Procedure Act, the money from fines goes into the province’s general revenue fund. It doesn’t specifically say where it goes from there. It doesn’t specify the money is directed back to a municipality.

The city and the Calgary police have said that the province had traditionally taken administration costs and proceeds for victims of crime and the final amount is forwarded to cities.

That money is typically directed back to the City of Calgary.

The Calgary Police Service confirmed that they get exactly what the city receives through this process, as part of their base budget.  The city is, essentially, a conduit for those provincial funds.

We followed up with the province to ask where they wanted that money from Calgary Police Service fine collection, after their take, to go, if not for policing.

We haven’t yet received a response.

Refusing to take responsibility for their actions, says councillor

Coun. Jyoti Gondek sat on the Calgary police commission until she left the role recently. She said the province isn’t owning up to the impact they’ve had on city police budgets.

“When a government has to manipulate language to explain away their own funding cuts, it’s pretty telling,” she said.

“By refusing to accept that unexpectedly taking a greater share of fine revenue would result in a decreased funding source for the Calgary Police Service, they’re refusing to take responsibility for their own actions.”

Coun. Gondek said that the reallocation and boosting of funding to social services is an effort to offload wellness calls from police.

“If the provincial government thinks it can gaslight me into believing the same lies they tell themselves, they’re mistaken,” she said.

“I have the best interests of my citizens and the police service at heart.”