Public Meeting Wednesday, February 8th at 6:00pm in Midland Council Chambers.
In just over a week, Midland will receive a formal bid from the OPP for policing our Town. We will start with some facts since all too often when communities consider their policing options there is lots of noise but not many facts.
This month, AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario), provided a brief to the Ontario Government dealing with financial and other assistance municipalities need to manage such things as aging infrastructure and the cost of local services including the elephant in the room, police costs.
The following are portions of the AMO brief (full brief available here: AMOs 2017 Pre-Budget Submission – Whats Next Ontario 2017-01-16):
- “Ontarians pay the highest policing costs in the country. This includes both provincial and municipal expenditures. In 2014-2015, Ontarians spent $347 per capita on policing. It is at least $40 more than Albertans and Quebecers and, $58 more than British Columbians. Cost growth in Ontario shows no sign of slowing down. Since 2011, costs have increased by $2 per capita in British Columbia, by $5 per capita in Alberta and Quebec, and by $27 per capita here in Ontario. We continue to seek provincial action to “bend the cost curve” in Ontario”.
- “Interest arbitration is another big test. Here’s a number to illustrate that point: if fire and police had received the same increase that other municipal unions did between 2010 and 2014, it would have meant $485 million in savings to municipal governments”.
- “In his recent review of policing, Justice Stephen T. Goudge, Q.C. said, “Police services have been organized for an older reality. Police services must adapt if they are to improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which they deliver safety and security.” Here in Ontario, that adaptation must accelerate. It will take political leadership at the provincial level to achieve new legislation that delivers”.
This submission demonstrates an obvious province-wide challenge for sustainable policing.
At a more local level within Simcoe County, Barrie and Midland are #1 and #2 with the highest Policing costs per household (see chart). In fact the four highest cost places in the County are those with their own municipal police force. So while the OPP and the Province need to control costs, even more so do the four places at the top of the spending heap – Midland included.
Fact: Midland spends about 40% more for policing per household than neighbouring Penetanguishene. And this doesn’t factor in unbilled support the Town of Midland provides to Midland Police for a shared building and for administrative support such as accounting, finance, payroll, benefits administration, etc. We estimate these are in the $300- $400K range annually.
Fact: Owen Sound is also seeking an OPP costing. Owen Sound is a rather progressive Police force that now provides dispatch services to Midland. I say progressive because they saw an opportunity to create a ‘revenue model’ by providing cost-effective dispatching for other communities. But even with their creativity and knowledge that taxpayers can’t ‘foot the bill’ forever, they too are looking for less costly approaches.
Fact: Midland’s growth rate can’t sustain the costs for our current Policing model because we’re simply too small to support all the overhead costs needed for a stand-alone police service.
Midland is an island in a sea of neighbouring places served by the OPP. Our neighbours appear happy with their police service. And why wouldn’t they be when you look at costs per household for the professional police service they are receiving.
So here we are a few days away from receiving the OPP bid. The bid will go next to a Town committee with assistance from an independent consultant to ensure we’re comparing ‘apples to apples’. When that’s all fleshed out, then we can have an honest debate about what’s best for Midland, not just today, but looking out to future years too.
Last week Council attended a visioning session where the facilitator reminded Council, “it’s not about getting re-elected, it’s about doing the right thing.”
Council, this is a big decision. Don’t let yourselves be unduly influenced by vocal ‘insiders’ who enjoy the status-quo and have obvious conflicts on this subject. In fact many Midland Police officers would welcome an opportunity to join the OPP family while continuing to protect and serve the residents of Midland.
As always Council, remain focused on the big picture and on those you were elected to serve.
Roy Ellis on behalf of MidlandCommunity.ca