ARCHIVED - Speech for the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, at the Summit on the Economics of Policing

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Ottawa, Ontario
January 16, 2013

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Thank you.

I'd like to welcome all of you here to Ottawa for this important summit.

I'm very pleased to be joined at the podium this morning by one of my provincial counterparts, the Honourable Shirley Bond, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for British Columbia, who I know shares my deep commitment to strengthening our police and keeping our communities safe.

I'd like to welcome all of our guest speakers and panelists from across Canada and abroad — they are all seasoned practitioners or eminent experts in their respective fields.

I'd also like to make special mention of some key stakeholders who have contributed to the dialogue underway on this issue across the country — the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Police College and the Police Sector Council.

As many of you know, in January 2012, federal, provincial and territorial ministers of Justice and Public Safety met to discuss our shared concerns about steadily rising policing costs in a time of fiscal restraint.

Recognizing that this is a complex issue that warrants a national dialogue, we agreed to convene a government-led Summit on the Economics of Policing, which I am pleased to host today on behalf of my federal, provincial and territorial colleagues.

When we use the term "Economics of Policing," we're essentially talking about the evolution and sustainability of policing in a time of greater fiscal constraints and enhanced public expectations.

And while Public Safety Canada has played a leadership role in planning and hosting this summit, this is not a top-down, Government-of-Canada event.

Nor is it an issue for which the federal government can “buy” the solution.  We are all in this together.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's clear that we are facing fiscal challenges, both in Canada and around the world.

All levels of government, as well as policing stakeholders, know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to pay for police services.

Among the many factors driving up policing costs is the emergence of new priorities and new types of crime, such as financial and commercial crime, cyber crime, the globalization of organized crime and an increased focus on national security and terrorism threats.

At the same time, we are seeing greater levels of complexity within the criminal justice system that demand many more resources to accomplish the same tasks.

The impaired driving trial that took two hours 20 years ago now takes two days, requiring more time for officers to prepare for and appear in court — officers that are not on the streets enforcing the laws but instead are completing forms or waiting to testify.

Spending on policing has increased steadily — reaching more than $12 billion annually in 2010. At the same time, over the last decade, the volume and severity of reported crime have both been on the decline.1

This has added fuel to the debate among Canadians, who rightfully want to know where and how their tax dollars are being spent.

As I mentioned, we're seeing a shift in public expectations.

A decade ago, the average Canadian readily accepted, almost without question, steady increases in police budgets.

Today, however, there are increasing calls to demonstrate the value of the investments that all governments make in public services, including policing. 

And because policing performance measures are not well-developed, widely applied, or reported to the public, there is little clarity as to the efficiency and effectiveness of police spending.

There is no question that policing is a difficult job for which officers should be fairly and competitively paid.

That said, with salaries and benefits making up 80 to 90 per cent of costs, looking for efficiencies in the way police work is done, and by whom, will be important as we move forward.

However, strengthening Canada's policing advantage isn't only about costs.

It's also about finding more effective and innovative ways to address criminality and disorder, both now and in the future.

We are starting to see proactive efforts in some jurisdictions and police services to address these issues.

At both the national and provincial levels, several reviews are underway to better understand, and find efficiencies, in the police and justice systems that will ultimately translate into more effective policing.

Most Canadian police services, if they act soon, have the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and respond with well-considered strategies.

In fact, some jurisdictions and police services are already implementing measures to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

These include making better use of civilian staff, tiered policing, partnerships with community and other organizations, appropriate use of the private sector, cost recovery for certain services, improved HR management and the enhanced use of technology.

We are also seeing the emergence of new and innovative approaches to policing and community safety, including integrated efforts by multiple local agencies to develop tailored responses to help families and individuals at risk, especially children and youth, get on the right path.

It is critical that we learn from research and new models in order to strengthen our approaches to policing and crime prevention — moving beyond those that are largely reactive to ones that are engaging and proactive.

At the federal level, our Government is taking measured actions to address those areas of policing for which we are directly responsible.

The RCMP is implementing reductions in its annual funding through administrative and operational support reforms that will not affect front-line policing.

Moreover, with the passing of the Expenditure Restraint Act2 in 2009, our Government has held federal employee salary increases, including those of RCMP members, to 1.5 per cent for a period of three years.

These are key cost containment measures that are helping keep RCMP policing services sustainable in the future, without affecting front-line policing services.

And, as many of you are aware, the RCMP Police Services Agreements negotiated with provinces and territories in 2012, include measures that give contract jurisdictions real input into issues affecting costs, identifying efficiencies, and maintaining the high-quality standards of contract policing.

Certainly Canada is not alone in having to address these challenges.

In other countries, the economic downturn has prompted drastic actions to address rising police costs.

As we will hear from our international speakers over the next two days, our friends in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are taking significant measures to control costs and to reform policing.

I look forward to hearing more from them about what has worked well and what has perhaps been less effective, so that we can all learn from one another.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be blunt.

Police services face two options — they can do nothing and eventually be forced to cut drastically, as we have seen in some countries; or they can be proactive, get ahead of the curve, and have greater flexibility in designing and implementing both incremental and meaningful structural reforms.

It is critical that all levels of government and the entire policing community be engaged in innovation and reform efforts, so that we can turn a fiscal challenge into an opportunity to sustain our police services and better serve Canadians.

Over the next two days, my hope is that we can start to map out a way forward to ensure we maintain Canada's strong policing advantage.

We can only do this through the constructive engagement of everyone involved in the policing community.

In the coming months, we need to continue this dialogue on:

Although there are many unknowns, there are three things we know with certainty.

First, we can only be successful if we are all moving forward together.

All levels of government, all police associations, all police services, all police boards — we all can, and must, play a role in developing and executing a shared agenda.

Second, we can only reach our objective if we tackle this issue from every angle.

From forward-thinking policy development to justice system reform; from legislative change to innovative cost containment measures; from cultural reform to organizational change management — we must examine all options going forward.

And third, real, lasting change will require sustained commitment over the long term.

With these goals in mind, I have great confidence that we can create a new and sustainable vision for policing in Canada.

Thank you again for your commitment to policing and serving Canadians.

I will now turn it over to Minister Bond.

Thank you.


Police Resources in Canada (2011), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada.


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