Policing Position Paper

DON’S DIALOGUE – POLICING POSITION PAPER

Since the inception of the District Municipality of Muskoka (DMM) in 1971, policing of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, which was formed at the same time, has defaulted to the DMM.   The District of Muskoka Act, under which both the TML and DMM were created was silent on policing responsibilities (this Act was repealed in 2003).  However the Police Services Act (PSA) does state that policing is an upper tier municipality responsibility.

Policing responsibilities have been conducted by the Ontario Provincial Police, since the inception of the DMM under a Non Contract Policing agreement as permitted under Section 5.1 of the PSA. It is interesting to note that the DMM is the only upper tier municipality in the Province of Ontario to conduct policing on a Non Contract basis.  Every other upper tier municipality in the province conducts policing under Section 10 of the PSA, which requires the formation and over sight of policing by an independent police services board.

INCONSISTENCY:

Section 4 of the PSA states that upper tier municipality shall have responsibility for policing, if that government is a regional government. An exception is Oxford County.  However in counties, lower tier and single tier municipalities have responsibility for policing. In some counties there is a collective policing agreement, as permitted under the PSA .  However there is no uniformity of policing  governance or organization  in the province.  Some examples of what occurs are as follows:

  • In Simcoe County which is immediately to the south of the DMM, the county does not list policing as a county or upper tier responsibility and in fact Orillia and Barrie have their own police forces.   Adjula, Tosorontio, Essa and New Tecumseth have one collective contract with the OPP that assesses policing costs to each municipality on the OPP Billing Model.
  • In Haliburton County to our east, the four municipalities have individual policing arrangements with the OPP and are billed individually.
  • To our north is the District of Parry Sound, which is not considered an upper tier government. Every municipality has its own contract or non contractual agreement with the OPP and are billed individually.
  • In both the Municipal and Police Services Acts, Oxford County is specifically identified as having the right for each lower tier to make their own policing arrangements and a onetime right to have a collective policing (regional) type agreement.
  • In Lambton and Elgin some lower tier municipalities have collectively contracted with the OPP and others have their own police forces. The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) and the County of Wellington have contracted with the OPP and assess the lower tiers on the levy with the unanimous consent of those lower tiers

It is interesting to note that DMM is called a District, but is run like a Regional government when it comes to policing. Unlike Oxford County, the District of Muskoka Act was silent on Policing.  The lower tier municipalities had no input or opportunity to express an opinion on the policing model they were obligated to use.

The DMM is composed of three towns and three townships. The townships have a highly seasonal cottage and vacationing population that have different policing requirements than the towns.  With the current non-contract policing arrangement it is very difficult without an independent police services board to ensure citizen concerns are addressed in an open transparent manner.

NEW OPP BILLING MODEL:

Many municipalities raised concerns in the past about the following:

  • Increase in police costs (double the rate of inflation),
  • Lack of transparency and accountability in how OPP costs and services were apportioned and billed
  • An arbitration process that failed to take into account a municipalities ability to pay for police services.
  • Minimal attempt to find lower cost alternative policing methods i.e. use of civilians and community policing.

In 2012, the OPP started to diligently review OPP costs and allocation methods with support from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and input from municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.   Over the next two years, a formula was developed that attempted to provide a uniform methodology to better allocate actual policing costs to each of the 329 municipalities where the OPP provide policing services.   The formula has three components:

  • A fixed cost for each municipal property
  • A variable cost based on the number of calls for service in each municipality
  • A significantly smaller cost for court services. ( which I will not address, but I believe it should continue to be expensed via the levy)

The new formula has significant room for improvement, especially in areas such as;

  • What constitutes a property where a small seasonal cottage is considered equal to a shopping mall or strip plaza
  • Calls for service for a murder investigation being cost equivalent to the investigation of a traffic accident.

However, we now have a system with known annual costs, statistical history and it is transparent.

DISTRICT OF MUSKOKA UNDER THE NEW BILLING FORMULA:

In 2014, the OPP rolled out the new billing model, effective Jan 1, 2015.   The impact was a significant increase or decrease in OPP costs for many municipalities in Ontario, but overall it was cost neutral provincially.

However, the DMM experienced a significant increase. Policing costs increased 70% or about $7 million per year – the highest dollar increase in Ontario.  This increase will be phased in over 3 years.

 

Ontario continues to have the highest policing costs per capita in Canada and in North America. It should be noted that OPP costs, while expensive by Canadian standards, are substantially less than many Ontario municipal police forces. The costing differential is mainly due to a higher level of the 5 core services (crime prevention, law enforcement, assistance to victims of crime, public order maintenance, and emergency response) mandated by the Province of Ontario or because they provide additional services.

The TML is generally pleased with the quality of policing services we receive. However our costs are further impacted by the methodology used by the DMM to allocate costs to the lower tier municipalities.   The DMM has determined that they will not use the OPP billing model, but will continue to allocate costs based on the levy, as was done before policing costs were known for each municipality.    Of the seven Regional or Group Billing Agreements with the OPP, four use the OPP billing model and three, Wellington, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry (SDG) and DMM, continue to use the levy.  It is interesting to note that Wellington and SDG received a reduction in OPP policing costs under the new billing model while the DMM received the largest increase.

The three DMM Townships, Muskoka Lakes , Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay, have on at least four occasions, tried unsuccessfully to have the District Council amend the billing policy and use the OPP billing model to apportion policing costs.   Resolutions at DMM Council meetings have been defeated by the three towns, Gravenhurst,  Bracebridge and Huntsville, because the towns have 12 votes in the DMM verses 10 votes for the Townships.   The District Chair is on record in his support of the townships position.

The towns unanimously do not want to use the OPP Billing Model. They are absolutely unwilling to deviate from the property assessment levy system in spite of the true costs being known.  Why?  The answer is because the townships subsidize the cost of policing in the three towns.    If the OPP methodology was used TML taxpayers would pay $2.8 million per year for policing instead of the $5.8 million per year under the levy allocation system.  Huntsville would pay their OPP billed costs of $4.1 million per year, verses the current $2.4 million under the levy allocation system.    The bottom line is that the three townships are  forced to pay over 2/3 of the DMM policing costs while consuming, less than 1/4 of the policing services, under the OPP billing model.  This is an absolutely egregious situation, both from a financial and governance perspective.

See the chart which follows for further examples.

 

Allocation of 2015 OPP Policing Cost for the District (after phase-in)
Area Municipality Calls for Service 2016 DMM Model for Dividing Policing Costs Province’s OPP Model for Dividing Policing Costs Difference between DMM and Provincial Model*
  % of DMM Total % Share $ per Area A $ per Area B % Share $ per Area B-A
Gravenhurst 20.4 13.22% $2,088,654 $2,934,894 18.6% $846,240
Bracebridge 24.4 12.39% 1,958,788 3,349,293 21.2% 1,390,505
Huntsville 34.6 14.99% 2,369,192 4,097,849 25.9% 1,728,657
Georgian Bay 4.8 10.78% 1,703,095 1,406,775 8.9% -296,320
Muskoka Lakes 11.4 36.96% 5,840,808 2,773,868 17.6% -3,066,940
Lake of Bays 4.5 11.66% 1,842,650 1,240,506 7.8% -602,144
Total District 100.00% 100.00% $15,803,187 $15,803,185 100.0%  
* These figures are the amounts gained/lost by the municipalities using the current DMM funding model

 

The province has mandated that the five core police services must be provide in all 444 municipalities in Ontario and they have also imposed a billing formula for OPP Policing for 329 municipalities. The others have their own police forces. The province has imposed the billing formula, yet has allowed three upper tier municipalities to use an alternate billing methodology. Two of those upper tiers appear to have unanimous consent with their lower tiers to use an alternate method. The current system in the DMM permits this outrageous abuse of governance to the financial benefit of three municipalities and significant detriment of taxpayers in three smaller municipalities.  This situation was created by provincial legislation and needs to be remedied by the province.

SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS:

  1. Option 1: Amend the PSA to allow lower tier municipalities to contract directly with the OPP for services. This mirrors the existing legislation that grants authority to lower tier municipalities in Counties 4(4) b.
  2. Option 2: Another option would be to require all higher tier municipalities to use the OPP billing model when dividing their policing cost to ensure equity in billing based on usage, and provide an “opt-out” clause to allow for municipalities to use their own formula if approved by a unanimous vote at the Upper Tier Council level.
  3. Option 3: Provide each lower tier with a onetime option – similar to Oxford County in having independent determination as to what type of policing they desire. Note that a triple majority mechanism will not work in the DMM

Sincerely

 

 

Don Furniss

Mayor