Download of DNA Costs a “Made in BC” Problem

Attorney General Suzanne Anton responded yesterday to UBCM’s request that the province reverse its decision to bill local governments for DNA testing services. In the view of UBCM, the Justice Minister’s statement contains inaccuracies that taxpayers should be made aware of.

In her response, the Justice Minister denied provincial responsibility for the decision, saying that “the previous federal government decided to change the funding model” and that “unfortunately, this means the costs fall to both levels of government [provincial and local] and we recognize the burden this federal decision places on municipalities.” In her statement, Minister Anton also said “UBCM and municipalities have been aware of these changes for over a year.”

It is UBCM’s contention that the federal change in the funding model does not include downloading these costs to local government since this is not occurring in other provinces and territories. Saddling local governments with these additional costs is a “made in BC” problem. If Minister Anton thinks it is acceptable that local governments pay these costs, she should stand behind the decision by the province to authorize this download. UBCM has also asked Minister Anton to clarify the province’s authority to transfer these costs to local government, something that her statement yesterday did not address.

Minister Anton’s claim of local government foreknowledge of the decision to transfer DNA costs to them is also inaccurate. Local governments knew the federal government was threatening to reduce services, and that the provincial and federal governments were in talks to change the funding model. Local governments were not advised, though, that the province's solution to paying its new costs would be transferring the greater portion of these to municipalities.

In UBCM’s letter to the federal Minister of Public Safety during federal/provincial negotiations of a new funding agreement for DNA services, UBCM stated its position on the service and its funding: “It is not appropriate for Public Safety Canada to make assertions about [DNA testing] service reductions when service delivery is the responsibility of the RCMP and when the Province is constitutionally responsible for ensuring adequate and effective policing.”

“Local governments already have our hands full paying for policing,” said UBCM President Al Richmond. “There is no room in our budgets to also pay the province’s bills as well. Minister Anton needs to explain why BC is the only province shifting these costs to local government. Blaming the federal government for a decision unique to BC does not hold water.”

UBCM maintains that the decision to shift costs for DNA testing services to municipalities with populations greater than 5,000 should be reversed, and that UBCM would be pleased to meet with Minister Anton to find a way forward on this issue.

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