Rural municipalities in Alberta will be asked to pay a share of policing costs under the province's new rural policing model unveiled Wednesday.
The additional $286-million investment over five years will add 500 RCMP positions and 300 front-line officers in rural communities, said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.
"This is the single-largest overall investment in rural policing since the March West," said Schweitzer, speaking from a dairy farm in Leduc County.
All three levels of government will fund the rural policing model, with the majority coming from the province.
"We're fixing a police funding system that we're told has been broken," said Schweitzer. "We're here today replacing that with a new police funding model that's equitable, where every municipality contributes and where we lay the foundation for sustainable policing for rural communities going forward."
Previously, municipalities did not pay anything for policing costs. Under the new model, they'll start paying 10 per cent of costs in 2020, 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022 and will max out at 30 per cent of costs in 2023 with "some exceptions."
The new model will add 500 RCMP positions overall and increase the number of front-line officers in rural communities from 1,600 to 1,900. It will also allow detachments to hire support staff and tactical units "to go after drug trafficking and organized crime," Schweitzer said.
It will also allow for the creation of scrap metal units, auto theft units and increased call centre capacity to ensure quick response times.
"The kind of crime we're seeing across Alberta isn't just petty crime," said Alberta RCMP Deputy Comm. Curtis Zablocki. "It's why our next steps in leveraging this funding are so important."
The investment will also help form the Alberta Police Advisory Board, a joint venture between rural communities and the province that will address rural Alberta's policing priorities.
NDP Justice Critic Kathleen Ganley criticized the announcement in a news release Wednesday, calling the new model a "historic tax grab."
“The UCP is not putting a single dollar into this investment. Instead, they’re downloading $200 million dollars to the municipalities of this province, municipalities who are already looking at cuts.," Ganley said.
She said while the NDP supports adding front-line officers, they wouldn't support municipal property tax increases to help pay for the new model.
Schweitzer made stops around the province this fall for his Rural Crime Tour, meeting with residents, business owners and local governments to discuss their concerns.
The tour was intended to help the minister ensure a more responsive justice system.
Ste. Anne County revealed in October that the government was planning to offload policing costs onto municipalities. Officials there anticipated that it could increase Albertans' taxes by $400.
At the time, Schweitzer told CTV News Edmonton that no costs would be 'downloaded.'
"Any new funds that may be collected under a new model would be reinvested directly in additional frontline policing, leading to an overall increase in funding for police services in Alberta," he said in a written statement.
Schweitzer was originally scheduled to make the announcement Tuesday morning but the event was rescheduled.