CBRM sees movement on highway policing costs, but Justice Department begs to differ

Officials in Cape Breton Regional Municipality say the Nova Scotia government has changed its mind over policing costs on 100-series highways, but the province says nothing has changed. (Travis Kingdon/CBC - image credit)
Officials in Cape Breton Regional Municipality say the Nova Scotia government has changed its mind over policing costs on 100-series highways, but the province says nothing has changed. (Travis Kingdon/CBC - image credit)

It looks like there's some movement in a dispute between Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Nova Scotia government over who pays for policing on 100-series highways.

But it sounds like that movement might just be one-way.

Municipal officials say the province has changed its mind and is now in talks with the regional police and RCMP on a memorandum of understanding that would see RCMP continue to patrol the major highways in CBRM.

"There is an agreement to move forward with finding a new MOU and how that will work and I believe that's based on the information that we had provided and submitted to the Department of Justice," said Coun. Eldon MacDonald, who chairs the CBRM police commission. "There's absolutely a change in that for the betterment of our community at large, for sure."

Last year, Cape Breton regional police pulled out of a deal to help the RCMP with highway patrol.

At the time, Chief Robert Walsh said the regional force was facing a budget and staffing crunch and needed to take its two officers off highway patrol and redeploy them on local priorities.

Coun. Eldon MacDonald and Chief Robert Walsh say the province is in talks with the regional police and RCMP to have regional police once again help the Mounties with highway patrols.
Coun. Eldon MacDonald and Chief Robert Walsh say the province is in talks with the regional police and RCMP to have regional police once again help the Mounties with highway patrols.

Coun. Eldon MacDonald and Chief Robert Walsh say the province is in talks with the regional police and RCMP to have regional police once again help the Mounties with highway patrols. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The cost of the highway patrol officers was being covered, but the RCMP were in charge, he said.

After the regional police cancelled the deal last year, the province decided it would no longer pay RCMP to patrol the highways in CBRM and insisted that was a municipal responsibility.

Following a police commission meeting Thursday, Walsh said CBRM officials sent the department copies of its old MOU with RCMP dating back to 2006 showing that highway patrol was up to the Mounties and he said that jurisdiction went back years.

"My interpretation was clear from the outset that the 100-series highways were not our responsibility," he said, adding the province now agrees.

MacDonald said talks for a new MOU are now in early stages, but he is pleased the province has finally come around.

"I believe with the information that we provided to the Department of Justice that we were able to have those discussions and come to a reasonable conclusion."

Walsh said the department needed its highway patrol officers back last year, but it now has new officers and recruits and is ready to negotiate a new deal.

"I think that we're in a better place now," he said.

'Nothing has changed'

RCMP are now patrolling the highways, but the province has said CBRM has to take over by the end of August.

Mayor Amanda McDougall has said that could amount to $700,000, which has not been included in this year's budget.

In an email Thursday, Justice Department spokesperson Toby Koffman said municipalities have always been responsible for policing highways and "nothing has changed."

He said the department expects CBRM to have an approved plan to cover the cost implemented by Aug. 30.

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