Blue Mountain Ratepayers' Association

OPP contract

OPP Contract and Section 5.1 Option Update

By Janet Findlay, Ritchie Baird, John Leckie (members of the BMRA Budget Review Committee)

Town Council will soon be asked to consider a 5-year renewal of the OPP police contract (for budget years 2013-2017). The BMRA position is that such a contract might not be in the best interests of the Town at the present time. We don’t have enough information to make a judgement call at this time and we are awaiting alternative proposals.

The reason for not getting into a traditionally expensive long term contract is that the economic climate and the fiscal capacity of Ontario and its municipalities face daunting issues. Therefore, governance in the Province is about to change in order to adapt to the times. Under these circumstances, instead of getting locked into a long term contract, the Town should at least consider the option of being charged for actual hours of police service under an agreement known as Section 5.1. To his credit, the Town CAO, Troy Speck, made this one of his suggestions early on in discussions with the BMRA and he presented that information to Council in the spring which should have found its way to the Police Board.

While the new Provincial leadership might prefer to continue to ignore the recommendations of the Drummond Report, it is certainly beginning to look like the Report is gaining traction.

But these matters take time to work themselves through the system. Section 5.1 is a way to delay. Therefore, the Blue Mountains should delay signing expensive long term contracts until the new Queen’s Park regime gets some traction on public sector wage and compensation packages that are more in sync with the economy’s ability to generate wealth to fund them.

Collingwood OPP officers have agreed to a two-year wage freeze and an 8.5% hike in 2014. Moreover, the contract has a clause guaranteeing them the highest pay of any police force in Ontario at the end of the three-year term. Over the years, the top annual salary for an OPP constable has grown dramatically; in 2011 it was $117,495, up from $94,431 in 2004. Small municipalities such as ours cannot afford such high costs for policing.

Mr. Speck has been told that various OPP options and estimates have been completed but that the Deputy Commissioners have not yet signed off on them. He is hoping that they will be presented to Council sometime in March. Let’s hope the options are better than the ones presented to Collingwood. Collingwood recently signed a new 5-year contract with the OPP for an increase this year of 5.76%. TBM Policing is linked to Collingwood and we need to avoid these kinds of escalations.

The BMRA would also like Council to consider moving to a five member Police Services Board from the current three members. Wider representation on the Board would improve public representation and allow a better forum for the discussion of costs and services. We also believe the Town should join the Association of Police Boards of Ontario, where it can maintain contact with other municipalities, especially at the rural and small town level, and by being more of a united front we could possibly have some control over the direction of police costs. Together small municipalities can voice their frustration with the provincial government.

We’ll conclude with some sympathy for our Councillors and Staff on this issue because it is the provincial government that sets the stage for increases of the OPP salaries. Who must pay? Our citizens! NOT the provincial government! We, at the rural/small town municipal level, are standing on the sidelines with little ability to control the direction of police costs. But we the Ratepayers throughout Ontario also vote for our MPPs. Maybe it’s time to bump this challenge up a political notch.

Meanwhile we urge our Councillors to carefully consider all the options and avoid locking us into a long term burdensome contract with the OPP that is out of step with economic realities.