The RCMP has spent nearly $1 million in the past six years on empty space the force is renting at its Dartmouth headquarters, says a Nova Scotia MP.
And Bill Casey, who represents Cumberland-Colchester, said the force has plans to continue to rent the space for another decade, even if it remains unoccupied.
“I just think it’s awful what they are doing,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
Casey said he learned of the issue after receiving a redacted copy of the 2017 Operational Communication Centre Feasibility Study through an Access to Information request along with questions he has asked in Parliament.
Casey also shared a copy of a letter he sent Thursday to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki in Ottawa outlining his concerns and questions.
“It’s wrong that they’ve been holding that space vacant for six years,” he said. “I want to know why they did that.”
Casey said the “significant amount of vacant space” includes three suites on the first floor and one on the third floor and provides enough room for more than 100 desks.
Based on the numbers in the RCMP report, he said, the force has paid rent on the empty space at a rate of $13,675 per month for six years, for a total to-date of $984,600. And he said the same report outlines several new RCMP proposals, which include continuing to pay rent on the vacant space for 10 more years, at a further projected cost of $1,641,000, for a combined total of $2,625,600.
“The RCMP says it’s not empty but I’ve got it in black and white,” Casey said. “That’s why I asked the commissioner to explain this.”
The building, at 80 Garland Avenue, is owned by Public Services and Procurement Canada and was established as the RCMP headquarters in 2013. Casey said it is referred to by some as “the glass palace.”
“It was built for the RCMP but I don’t think it was built exclusively for the RCMP,” he said.
Casey said he believes the RCMP have been keeping the space vacant on the premise that it could be used to relocate its Operational Communications Centre from Truro to Dartmouth.
RCMP officials announced in February plans to shut down the Truro OCC and relocate it to the Dartmouth headquarters in early 2021. Casey raised his concerns about the decision with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and last week the minister asked the RCMP to look into them. The RCMP then made the decision to seek an independent examination of the concerns.
Casey has suggested the empty space could be rented to other federal bodies such as the coast guard or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. But while waiting to meet with RCMP officials at the site during a visit last year, Casey said he was told by two RCMP officers that option is not on the table.
“The reason it’s empty is that they don’t want anybody else in that building but RCMP,” he said. “I just don’t see the threat for the RCMP of having the Canadian Coast Guard or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in that building.”
The RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.