Police board OKs $15.2M budget increase, new public feedback rule

An Ottawa Police Services Board meeting in March 2022. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)
An Ottawa Police Services Board meeting in March 2022. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)

After a three-and-a-half hour meeting Monday, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a $401 million budget for 2023.

The police budget is increasing by $15.2 million, or about $17 for the average household. Money is being allocated to hiring 25 new officers, buying more hybrid vehicles and a new body camera project.

Ahead of the meeting, Ottawa police Chief Eric Stubbs said this increase was necessary in the face of rising demand and inflation.

"People are asking for us in a lot more different areas: the rural areas, the outlying areas, in the downtown core. They want more of us in the [ByWard] Market," he said.

"There [are] increasing demands everywhere and we have to respond to that … With a growing community, the only way to do that is to invest in policing."

Before the board could approve its budget, it heard from a number of people who voiced their concerns about the increase.

"We continue to put money toward police services, when [it] could be put toward helping people and helping the most vulnerable people in this community … It's incredibly disappointing." said Chloe Humber, who attended the meeting as a public delegation.

"The police want more of everything. More cops, more money, more share of the budget." said Inez Hillel, another public delegate.

"Do you ever ask them when they will have enough? When will you admit that more police is not equal to more safety?"

Other public delegations cited a growing housing crisis and the need for more mental health services as more important issues to spend on.

Changing public participation rules

There were also concerns about changes to public delegation rules.

A plan originally proposed by the board's policy and governance committee would have seen public delegations moved to a separate, lunch-hour meeting where delegations would get three minutes of speaking time each if more than 12 people wanted to speak.

"The real feedback you get is from many other sources, not just these delegations," said Kanata North Coun. Cathy Curry, who was in favour of the change to noon.

"[That] would work to make this space less accessible for public delegates," said Farnaz Farhang, who attended Monday's meeting as a delegate.

Farhang said she was concerned working professionals and parents would be unable to join noon meetings.

"By separating the public delegations to a different time … you would be sending a clear message that you're not actually here to listen to the public's ideas and concerns and involve them in a meaningful way in the discussions that impact their day-to-day experiences."

Alta Vista Coun. Marty Carr proposed that public delegations remain at normal board meetings, but people must submit their planned comments in writing ahead of time.

Jean Delisle/CBC
Jean Delisle/CBC

"We heard a lot from the delegations that they want us to ask questions. I understand that and I know it's easier for me to ask a question if I read material ahead of time," she said.

"Requesting that people submit material ahead of time was included so that we can have an opportunity to dialogue more with those that are delegating."

Board members eventually settled on Carr's proposal to keep public delegations at the main meeting with those requirements for written remarks in advance.

City council will debate and approve the full 2023 budget Wednesday.