Anton blames feds for DNA police cost shift

Cities told to take downloading complaints to Ottawa

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton.

B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton says municipalities worried about a requirement that they start to pay part of the cost of police DNA testing should take their complaints to the federal government.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has urged its member cities and towns, which must pay a combined $2.9 million in new charges next year, to protest what it called a provincial decision.

“Not only does this create additional pressure on local finances, the decision flies in the face of the ‘One Taxpayer’ principle so often invoked by the provincial government,” UBCM president Al Richmond said in a letter to the province. “The cost shift to local government is both unwarranted and unfair.”

But Anton said the cost shift stems from the previous Conservative federal government’s decision to pay less than before, not the result of any downloading by Victoria.

“British Columbia has not changed its funding,” she said. “This is an increase that was imposed on B.C. and other provinces by the federal government, which is now requiring municipalities and the province to pay more for DNA services, or lose the service altogether.”

She said the province continues to make its standard annual contribution of $1.3 million a year and it has added a further $1.7 million this year to subsidize municipalities.

But that provincial subsidy dries up next year under a federal-provincial agreement to apportion the costs, leaving more to come out of civic coffers.

Meanwhile, the total cost to B.C. for DNA testing by B.C. police forces is to climb from $3.6 million this year to a projected $5.8 million by 2019.

Anton noted municipalities have known about the issue for nearly two years.

The extra annual costs for DNA testing are expected to be more than $400,000 for Surrey, $100,000 in Abbotsford and about $80,000 in both Delta and Langley Township.