The mayor of Fort Macleod appreciated Solicitor General Frank Oberle keeping his promise to attend a public meeting on the police college. That doesn’t mean Shawn Patience is satisfied with all the answers Oberle gave more than 300 people March 23 in the Empress Theatre. “It’s not a funding issue,” Patience said in response to Oberle’s contention that is the main stumbling block.
“It is an issue of political will. If your government wanted to build this training centre it would be built already.”
Patience and some of his council were among the audience to hear Oberle make a commitment to build the police college in Fort Macleod. Patience expressed frustration the project announced in August 2006 is not yet built or under construction.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Patience said. “We are missing the boat . . . this thing makes sense. Let’s get on with it.”
“If I was not prepared to go back to my cabinet and say exactly that, I don’t think I would be standing here tonight,” Oberle said.
Oberle maintained, however, he would not make any promises on which he can’t deliver.
Oberle said it is his intention to re-profile the police college in the next couple of months and then present it for consideration for the government’s capital list.
Patience was not pleased with Oberle’s contention the police college has to be re-profiled before it is brought forward to government to be considered for the capital plan.
The mayor urged Oberle to stick to the original plan that the college would provide training each year for 1,400 police and peace officer recruits.
“I don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves as just training police,” Patience said.
Patience said it won‘t be a problem to get other enforcement agencies on-side.
“We have a product here that can be sold,” Patience said. “It just has to be sold.”
Fort Macleod resident Sharon Brown wondered why groundwork still needs to be done.
“Why was the announcement for the college made before the work was done?” Brown asked.
Oberle said the government doesn’t have money available now that it did in 2006, so plans have to change.
“There was a plan,” Oberle said. “It was clear that plan would not work.”
Patience rejected that stand and challenged the solicitor general to make the college a priority and get some money in place for its construction.
“If you’re not prepared to do that, let’s not waste anybody’s time,” Patience said of a P3 partnership without a financial commitment from the government.
Patience said the province has to put money toward building the college to get a P3 partner.
“I can find you a company that will build your P3 if you make the lease payments,” Patience said.
Fort Macleod Coun. Brian Reach wanted to know why the police college isn’t on the solicitor general department’s published list of priorities, as it once was.
“Why is it taken off the list now, and when was it taken off?” Reach asked.
Oberle said the police college was, and remains a priority for his department, noting the project has never been on the capital plan.
“If somewhere it got dropped, it’s back on now,” Oberle said. Coun.
Trevor Curran asked if the project had the full commitment of Premier Ed Stelmach.
“I wouldn’t be here tonight if I didn’t have the premier’s blessing,” Oberle said. “The premier is behind this.”
Town of Fort Macleod economic development officer Martin Ebel contested Oberle’s position the police college has to be self-sustaining.
“Generally speaking education and training is not self-sustaining,” Ebel said. “It’s an investment.”
Oberle pointed out the police college will not have the same opportunity to charge tuition as other post-secondary institutions.
Town of Fort Macleod municipal manager Barry Elliott asked about the status of a report on work done in 2008 by the British firm Price Waterhouse Coopers to adjust the college’s operational model to make it more sustainable.
Oberle said he has never seen such a report, although he may have seen comments and suggestions from Price Waterhouse Coopers. Patience stressed his appreciation to Oberle for the chance for people to ask questions.
“We appreciate the opportunity you have given us tonight to ask questions, and put forward perhaps some of the frustration we have felt,” Patience said.