A statement from the Province’s Attorney General on the funding of DNA testing costs has drawn the ire of the Union of BC Municipalities.
UBCM President Al Richmond likens Justice Minister Suzanne Anton’s suggestion that UBCM raises their concerns to the federal government as a telephone bill.
“If I’m getting a bill from Telus, I hadn’t anticipated for service that I presently had no cost and suddenly there’s an arbitrary cost associated with it, would I go to Bell and argue about the contract?”
“They’re going to tell me, you don’t have a contract with us. So basically, we can’t go to the federal government and argue about this process because we’re not party to the contract. Our contract is through and with the provincial government.”
Richmond says Cities including Williams Lake and Quesnel have recently received bills to foot the costs of DNA analysis that had previously been funded by provincial and federal governments. Surrey alone is on the hook for $410,000
He says because the provincial government has fixed their contribution of $1.3 million dollars, the costs for the services will escalate for local governments-Williams Lake a little less than $2,000 this year but estimated to be $13,000 in 2016.
Anton denied provincial responsibility for the decision and said in a written statement on Dece. 2 that the previous federal government decided to change the funding model and that the costs fall to both provincial and local governments.
“Not only will we continue to subsidize municipal DNA testing by maintaining our annual contribution of $1.3 million in order to assist municipalities, but we have also paid an additional $1.2 million in 2014-15 and will pay an additional $1.7 million this year for DNA services used by police in B.C.”
UBCM maintains that the decision to shift costs for DNA testing services to municipalities with populations greater than 5,000 should be reversed.
“I think she (Anton) didn’t address the authority of the government and where the order and council are to transfer these costs to local government…She hasn’t answered directly why the province of British Columbia decided they were going to be the only province in Canada that would actually move some of these costs to local governments and just plain didn’t answer some of the questions we felt should be answered,” says Richmond.
“There’s a new government in Ottawa and I believe it’s time believe we should ask whether they still have the same idea that the government (Conservatives) did with respect to changing in what we believe is a national service.”
Anton has blamed the former Conservative government for demanding that provinces pay for DNA analyses or lose the service altogether.
She says UBCM and municipalities have been aware of these changes for over a year.