Some policing cost relief for Sioux Lookout, Kenora
Tim Brody - Editor
Some financial relief from policing costs for Sioux Lookout and Kenora.
Sioux Lookout will receive an additional five percent discount on its policing bill, now a 40 percent discount, and Kenora will receive an additional 10 percent discount, now a 15 percent discount.
Pickle Lake’s current discount of 95 percents remains in place.
The three communities formed a coalition last April to address the cost of policing in their communities. The new discounts follow several meetings with the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance shared, “The Solicitor General was very gracious in meeting with the coalition twice at ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) and then committed to engage fully in our file and get back to us within a matter of weeks, which he did, and involved another online meeting with the coalition a few weeks after ROMA (which was held in late January).
Lawrance said the additional discount is good news for the community, “We, as a coalition, we worked hard for this and we’re extremely pleased with the Solicitor General’s engagement and movement on this issue for us.”
The coalition shared in a Feb. 21 media release that the provincial median for policing costs is about $320 per property. With Sioux Lookout’s discount now being 40 percent, Lawrance said that brings the cost of policing to under $600 per property in the Municipality.
“While the additional discounts are much lower than the municipalities had requested, the coalition leaders are hopeful that a pending review of the Community Safety and Policing Act (CSPA) will result in more significant financial relief in the future,” the coalition shared.
“We were hoping to have our policing cost normalized, but recognizing that it doesn’t all happen in a day, this is progress towards that goal and we’re grateful for it,” Lawrance said.
Asked further about Sioux Lookout’s policing bill, Lawrance explained, “It’s a rolling average of four years. The 2023 policing bill doesn’t really have anything to do with the calls for service in 2023 or 2022 for that matter. It’s an average of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. It’s rather complex, but in a nutshell, our policing bill is in the range of $2.5 million undiscounted, so you can do the math, with the discount it would be in the range of $1.5 million.”
“For many years, we have been trying to get the Solicitor General’s office to take the problem of policing costs in our municipalities more seriously, “Lawrance said in the coalition’s media release. “By working together as a coalition rather than individual municipalities, we have finally been able to get some traction on the issue.”
Lawrance added, “We remain concerned that our policing costs are unsustainable. Our communities are regional centres for healthcare, pharmacy, education, commerce, legal, and transportation services for tens of thousands of people across the region. We serve a population much larger than our municipal population.”
Lawrance wished to clarify, “We’re extremely pleased with the service we get from the OPP. They have a great relationship with the Municipality and other agencies in town and I want thank them for the service they do provide.”
“We know that we are not alone when it comes to concerns regarding the provincial cost formula for policing, which continues to squeeze many northern communities, and others across the province”, said James Dalzell, Mayor of Pickle Lake. “One outcome of the CSPA review process must be a new funding model. The current model is not sustainable for many communities.”
Lawrance said the additional five percent discount is good news as the Municipality works through its 2023 budget, “It will have a good impact on the 2023 budget, and we’re pleased and grateful for that.”
“I would like thank our coalition partners and our administration for their persistence as well and Council for its doggedness on this, but really we have to thank Minister (Michael) Kerzner for his engagement on it meeting commitments he made to us,” Lawrance said, adding, “We’ll continue to advocate for the all the other parallel matters that will help reduce the calls for service.”