Pembroke – A significant reduction of almost 40 percent in the number of Provincial Offences charges in the last three years has lead one Renfrew County mayor to question if enforcement is the issue and how this applies to the amount of money municipalities pay for policing through the Ontario Provincial Police.
“We are seeing less charges being laid which by extension means there is less enforcement,” Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue noted at the August meeting of Renfrew County council last Wednesday.
The only other explanation of a decline of some 36 percent in charges laid through the Provincial Offences Act since 2018 is the population has become more law abiding, he said.
“While that is possible, that is statistically unlikely,” he added.
The county administers the Provincial Offences Act court and this was recently moved to the county building as part of a consolidation of services. As part of the discussion at the county, it was noted there have been ongoing issues with not having enough justices of the peace and the cancelation of court dates. A report at the county showed a backlog of up to 17 months for cases with as many as 1,239 charges involved in the backlog. While things have improved slightly in July, the backlog is currently 12.5 months with 884 backlog charges. The county is short two Justices of the Peace at present.
However, Mayor Donohue pointed out there is also the issue of less charges being laid. He said while the Finance and Administration Committee receive caseload information on charges it does not come to the County council level usually. He said the recent charting for April, May, June and July shows a significant reduction of charges from how many were laid as recently as three years ago. He said this was not the first time the concern was being raised and pointed out the committee has noticed a “significant decline” in charges at the POA court and did write a letter questioning this in February. When he asked if there had been a response to the letter, he was told there was no response so far.
Mayor Donohue said he had no intention on weighing in about where charges should be laid, but he thought it was significant to point out the number of charges is declining dramatically. While there has been a decline of 36 percent since 2018, there was also a decline of 25 percent since 2019.
“In 2020, in a full year there was a 20 percent drop,” he added.
Mayor Donohue said he found this concerning especially since the County has received a lot of complaints about speeding on the Lake Dore Road (County Road 30), including a petition signed by area residents asking for a speeding signs and greater enforcement on this busy stretch of road.
“Perhaps this even draws in Lake Dore and the speeding,” he said.
There are many people who are concerned about speeding and speeding charges are part of the charges laid under the Provincial Offences Act, he noted. While the issue of enforcement is not something directly involving the county, since the lower-tier municipalities pay for policing costs, it is something that affects most of the assembled mayors and reeves with the exception of Deep River which has their own police force, he said.
Mayor Donohue said under the OPP funding formula there is both a base charge and call for service charge.
“What are we receiving for our base fees?” he asked. “If patrolling in our communities is a base cost and we are seeing less enforcement, then I am having difficulty arriving at the enforcement and what I believe is an increase in the speeding rate.”
In regard to speeding and putting up signs alerting speeders of how fast they are traveling, he said this is a poor substitute for enforcement.
North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose said he was also concerned about the speeding issue, especially on the Lake Dore Road which he has discussed before at the county and his own municipality.
“I do believe there is a reduced level of enforcement,” he said.
“I don’t believe lowering the speed limit solves the problem if there is no corresponding level of enforcement,” he said.
The mayor agreed if municipalities are paying for a base level of enforcement and aren’t getting that same level of enforcement this is a concern.
Council had heard earlier the county is working with NAW and the OPP to find solutions to the speeding on Lake Dore. The most recent concern was about the outskirts of the village of Golden Lake on that road. Council received a petition signed by several residents near the hamlet asking for a speeding sign outside Golden Lake where the designation is 50 kph yet vehicles are traveling at 80 kph or more. Council was advised the county has moved its portable trailer speeding sign to the Lake Dore Road and the OPP have also been asked for an increase in patrolling of this area.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader