Three mayors grateful for help with police costs, but say more is needed from province
The mayors of Kenora, Pickle Lake, and Sioux Lookout say the province is providing some relief for high policing costs, but it’s not enough.
The new discounts mean Kenora now gets a 15 per cent discount, Sioux Lookout gets a 40 per cent break, and Pickle Lake’s current discount of 95 per cent remains in place, according to the three communities, which formed a coalition last year to advocate for policing cost relief.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance said he’s “graciously disappointed with the relief that we got. Grateful that they recognized the need for it, disappointed that it wasn't a deeper discount.”
Lawrance said they had hoped the discount would put them more in line with what they calculated the average cost of policing at $320 per property per year.
“What we got from Solicitor General [Michael Kerzner] was a soft commitment that this would be in place until such time as the Community Safety and Policing Act undergoes the revisions that we understand its undergoing, which we would hope would include the regulatory discount table or some form of addressing the discounts.”
Lawrence said the discount will apply to the beginning of 2023.
“The discounts are a step in the right direction, but much more is needed,” said Kenora Mayor Andrew Poirier in a release. “We do, however, appreciate the time and energy Minister Kerzner has put into addressing our concerns.”
Lawrance said it’s their understanding that the revisions for the act should take place this year in time for 2024.
“But we've seen in the past that those kind of changes can sometimes take more time than the government allows for it,” he said.
He said the coalition got the details from the solicitor general during a virtual meeting on Feb 14.
Lawrance said Kerzner invited them to another meeting in June and asked the communities to keep him posted on any trends regarding policing in the area.
He said the coalition asked to be engaged in the process of looking at the changes as outlier communities.
“We feel that we can provide information that would inform their revisions,” he said.
The office of the Ministry of the Solicitor General emailed Dougall Media a response, stating the ministry “continues to work with communities facing unique challenges in the northwest. The ministry is assessing policing costs in these municipalities. Should any agreement be reached, details would be released at the appropriate time.”
Lawrance said the arrangement of the coalition comes to a conclusion with the solicitor general's offer and our acceptance of that offer.
“However, we see the value of working as a coalition, a single voice from an outlier community doesn't have the same impact as multiple voices do,“ he said.
“So my hope is that a coalition [continues] and maybe it's a broader coalition, [with] more northern communities, municipalities with the same issues.”
Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source