B.C.’s director of police services has ordered the Township of Esquimalt to pay its share of the Victoria Police Department’s 2022 budget increase.
Esquimalt council earlier this year voted against the roughly $1.3-million proposed increase, which would fund ten additional full-time positions, including six officers and four civilian staff, as well as overtime pay for the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team and the Public Safety Unit.
While Victoria council approved the increase, it requires support from both councils as the two municipalities share the responsibility for policing costs.
Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board in April requested a review of the dispute under Section 27 (3) of the Police Act. The decision by Wayne Rideout, who also serves as assistant deputy minister in the ministry of public safety and solicitor general, marks the third time, he resolved a VicPD budget dispute in the last four years alone.
Rideout’s decision to approve the disputed budget expansion pegs Esquimalt’s share at just over $183,500 per its budget share of just over 13 per cent.
Mayor Barb Desjardins said council felt that the resources, which VicPD had requested, wouldn’t necessarily benefit Esquimalt. “Given the challenges in the City of Victoria, most of those resources were targeted to help improve services in that community,” she told Black Press Media.
Desjardins added that Esquimalt pays significantly more for policing services than municipalities of similar size, such as Oak Bay and Central Saanich. But she admitted it’s a challenging situation.
“You have two very different communities requiring two very different levels and types of policing,” she said. “The governance overall – we had hoped that the framework agreement would solve some of the inequity, but it hasn’t.”
Victoria Police Del Manak said elected officials have tough choices to make at budget time in a statement released Thursday. “This decision by the province, however, confirms to me that public safety cannot be compromised and communities must be protected by adequate and effective policing services in order to thrive,” he said.
Esquimalt council in August unanimously voted not to renew the framework agreement with the City of Victoria. That agreement expires in December 2023.
But Desjardins said her council will watch closely to ensure Esquimalt sees some return on its investment, until the municipality transitions from the jointly funded department and implements a new policing model.
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