Both Penetanguishene and Midland councils approved plans to create a single 13-member board to oversee the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment municipalities.
The adoption of a new single OPP detachment board would replace existing ‘section 10’ police services boards across the municipalities for efficiency purposes in serving the regions. It comes as part of a 2019 Community Safety and Policing Act requirement through the Solicitor General, expected to be implemented by early 2022.
In addition to three provincial appointees, one municipal and one community representative from each of the five municipalities would make up the 13-member board.
Some members of Penetanguishene council were rattled when Coun. Brian Cummings, who chairs the town’s existing police services board, spoke against having a 13-member group.
When pressed, he explained that it wasn’t the proposal itself he had a problem with, but rather the large number of members having to deal with the varying size differences with urban and rural areas of Penetanguishene, Midland, the Townships of Tay and Tiny and part of Muskoka (Georgian Bay Township).
“I don’t believe that 13 people on a board, including three provincial appointees which we may never see, are going to be effective in dealing with those particular items in each municipality,” Cummings explained. “I don’t mind one detachment board, or two detachment boards which is what we recommended. Or even one board with nine members on it. I just don’t believe it will be effective.”
The vote for the motion was carried by Penetanguishene council 6-3, with Coun. Cummings, Michel Mayotte, and Dan LaRose representing the nays.
During the Midland special council meeting held the next day, the 13-member OPP detachment board proposal was also brought forward, but to a much more welcoming and receptive council.
“We struggled with the size a little bit, we didn’t want something too large,” said CAO David Denault, who spoke on providing representation from every municipality. “Not just the larger urban centres; we felt every community required representation.”
Mayor Stewart Strathearn also provided contextual insight, relating how the seven communities of Northumberland serviced by a single detachment was spending more time with its detachment commander providing updates to those areas rather than directing resources and efforts to matters at hand.
“So they got permission from the ministry to pull together,” Strathearn shared as he brought it back to North Simcoe, “and what they found was rather than a 'siloed' approach, they were able to understand that… say, an operation out of Victoria Harbour, for example, was impacting Midland, and vice versa.”
Midland council voted unanimously to carry the motion.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca