Coalition municipalities weigh in on, ‘the real cost of high policing costs on our municipalities’
Tim Brody - Editor
“The municipalities of Kenora, Sioux Lookout, and Pickle Lake estimate that since 2015, they have collectively paid out over $30 million dollars more than they should have for the day-to-day services of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). That is about $4 million dollars annually that these municipalities could have invested in critical infrastructure needs, such as bridges, roads, drainage, water and sewer infrastructure and recreation facilities and services,” a May 26 media release issued by the Municipality of Sioux Lookout states.
“We pay twice,” said Daniel Reynard, mayor of Kenora. “First, we pay the highest cost of local policing in Ontario, then we pay again in lost opportunities to invest in our communities. The tax dollars of our residents and businesses don’t go nearly as far as they could.”
“One out of every four municipal tax dollars goes out of the community to pay for OPP policing services.” Reynard said adding, “That’s not fair. It’s not equitable, and we owe it to our taxpayers to fix this.”
The municipalities of Kenora, Pickle Lake, and Sioux Lookout formed a coalition earlier this year to address what they say are the significant costs of providing police services in their respective communities. The coalition municipalities have brought the matter to local provincial election candidates and will be asking the new provincial government to change its 8-year-old cost-formula for OPP-provided police services. “The formula is based on cost per property but does not reflect that each of three communities are hubs for much larger populations. In total, the municipalities, in terms of policing costs, are paying for twice as many people as their tax bases ought to support. This is putting a strain on critical areas of municipal spending,” the municipal media release informed.
“While deteriorating roads are most visible, it is water and sewer infrastructure that needs our attention, and quickly,” said Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance. “Day-to-day it is working fine, but we need to replace outdated infrastructure. Our taxpayers rightly expect us to address problems like these before they become serious issues, but our extraordinarily high cost of policing makes these investments difficult.”
“Any increase in policing costs sends a ripple of financial disruption through our municipality,” stated Kayla Blakney, deputy mayor of Pickle Lake. “Infrastructure investments are easy to put off, as most of them are unseen. But that is not sustainable. As responsible elected officials, we have an obligation to make this right.”
Asked if local candidates have been receptive to the coalition’s message, Lawrance answered, “They’ve all been receptive to the message. We’re also asking them to contact their party leaders, so I believe they’ve all been receptive, and they’ve all been informed.
Even if a party is in opposition or in power, if you have the interest of the local MPP and their understanding of the issue and willingness to carry it forward for you, that’s one big step and the next is getting their party to have that same commitment, whether opposition or government. That’s the aim here, to inform, get their interest and hopefully commitments to act.”
Lawrance said Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca has already written back and made a commitment (to review the existing cost formula, if elected).
“We make up close to a million dollars a year above normal policing costs, even with our discount,” Lawrance said of Sioux Lookout’s policing bill.
Money that he said could be used in other places, “I think I’ve said this before, roads are the obvious one, everybody sees that, but the underground infrastructure is old and, in some cases, fragile and is just waiting for an event such as we just had to expose some weaknesses. We’d like to have a proactive program of replacing underground infrastructure, but we have to do it usually in conjunction with doing the upper surface works as well. So, having more available to spend on infrastructure and less needed to be spent on policing, would allow us to be more proactive in updating infrastructure that most people won’t see and won’t be aware of under the ground how fragile some of it is… if we had more by spending less on policing, we could do more on infrastructure.”