The Dryden Observer

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Regional leaders to push province on escalating policing costs

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Jon Thompson

Dryden will vote with regional municipalities this week on an initiative to lobby for more provincial funding that would help address the rising cost of policing.

Law enforcement salaries are expected to spike for most Northwestern Ontario communities in 2014 when a two-year wage freeze ends on Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers. When OPP agreed to the freeze, Ontario promised its officers would be the highest paid in the province once it was lifted. To date, meeting that promise would mean a wage increase of 8.5 per cent.

Although Dryden is policed by the independent Dryden Police Services, its $479 per capita cost for policing is the third highest of all Ontario municipalities. Of the $4,073,654 Dryden paid for police services in 2011, salaries accounted for $2,994,461 or 73.5 per cent of total cost.

Labour negotiations on a new Dryden Police Services contract will begin in July, at which point Mayor Craig Nuttall said officer staff levels could be reduced. Nuttall expressed faith in the local force, relief that Dryden won’t have to contend with OPP wage increases and solidarity with neighbouring communities.

“Our policing cost is funded by the Ontario government, partly. I think we have a good force here and I certainly look at the OPP costing some of these people are going to be faced with now, I think it’s ridiculous that they’re going to have 8.5 per cent,” Nuttall said. “I’m quite happy with what we’ve got. We’re going to have to look at different things we’re going to do in the police department but we have a great chief. The chief is working together with his association and with the board.”

Nuttall will support a Fort Frances motion this week at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) that would request the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) lobby to increase policing allocations under the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF).

“Our position is, the province negotiated this package with the police and now they expect the municipalities to cover it, which to me is totally unfair,” explained Fort Frances Coun. Rick Weidenhoeft. “If the province is going to negotiate, they’ve given us this OMPF formula. Part is dedicated to police costs. That has gone up much more slowly than the policing costs themselves.”

In Dryden’s case, $1,968,400 or 58 per cent of OMPF funding was dedicated to policing costs in 2012, accounting for 48 per cent of Dryden’s policing costs. In 2013, that value is falling to $1,887,196, downloading two per cent of policing costs to the municipality.

Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield is the president of NOMA. He also intends to support the resolution, arguing police costs have doubled since 2000 across Canada and wages have far outpaced inflation.

“It’s unfair that some of us in Northwestern Ontario are paying some of the highest rates in the province. It’s not fair, it’s not right and there have to be changes,” Canfield said. “Wage increases double the cost of living, year after year, aren’t sustainable. That has to be addressed by government. We want to be fair but fair is fair. If we head down that road, were on the same road as Greece where they’ve had to cut massive services to their constituents because they can’t afford it anymore. We don’t want it to get that far.”

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