Orangeville’s new council reopens policing debate, requests new costing from OPP

December 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville’s new council stayed true to its pre-election word Monday (Dec. 10), officially requesting a new costing proposal from the OPP and asking Town staff to investigate how much it would cost to hire a third-party consultant to analyze the numbers. 

In passing the motion, introduced by Mayor Sandy Brown and supported unanimously by the rest of Council, Orangeville has reopened the can of worms that plagued the majority of the last four-year term. With a self-proclaimed cohesive Council now in place, Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh said a final decision would be made, one way or another, this term over whether or not the Town opts for a contract with OPP or sticks with the Orangeville Police Service.

“The last council really left us open-ended on this thing. The deputy mayor of the day (Warren Maycock), who was the swing vote, said he was going to leave this for the next council to decide. So we’ll decide,” Mr. Macintosh said. “Now, we need facts and we need figures.”

During the previous OPP costing process, Town Treasurer Marc Villeneuve and CAO Ed Brennan carried out much of the analytical work on the provincial proposal, eventually estimating the Town would save in the region of $4.3 million per year if they disbanded OPS and embraced the OPP. While those projections were challenged by some in the community, notably former mayor Jeremy Williams, the figures presented by Mr. Villeneuve and Mr. Brennan were not disputed by the Town’s auditors, BDO. 

Their predecessors having taken the brunt of the public discord last time around, the new Council is keen to leave Town staff out of this costing process. There were calls from some sectors during the previous costing that Town staff was “too close” to the decision to formulate an unbiased opinion. While those claims have been labelled ridiculous by several members of this current council, the preferred route this time would be to hire an independent consultant and leave senior management out of the crossfire. 

Council also wants to see more information on the level of service the OPP would provide before even considering altering its municipal policing model.

“A lot has been made of the potential financial benefits of switching to the OPP. All I hear about is the $4.5 million we’d save, but I want to make sure the level of service would remain the same. The only way to figure all of this out, in good conscience, is to get a consultant in,” Mr. Macintosh said. 

“If we’re going to save $4.5 million, but spend, say, $70,000 on a consultant, then I think that’s a damn good deal.”

He added, “We need to hear what a consultant has to say. We need to confirm what we have been told.”

Having declared the OPP vs OPS debate one of Orangeville’s “big three issues” heading into the municipal election, Coun. Todd Taylor was not surprised to see the subject front and centre on this council’s first meeting. He expressed his belief that both forces provide “an excellent level of service” before stating he would like to pursue an OPP costing. He was, however, keen to imprint upon residents that “there are other options out there,” softly suggesting there could be potential to investigate a policing partnership with Shelburne, whose council will consider an OPP costing at its next meeting on Jan. 14. 

“I’d like to find out as much as possible about these other options,” Coun. Taylor stated. 

Coun. Lisa Post said she was happy to support the idea of a costing, while indicating she, too, would like to see a consultant hired to review both the OPP and OPS costing predictions. 

“There was a lot of speculation throughout the last process. Through knocking on thousands of doors in the lead-up to the election, there are many residents concerned that the wrong decision was made by the last council. I think we have to have real numbers, real information, to be accurate,” Ms. Post said. 

Prior to the motion hitting the floor, former councillor Nick Garisto took centre stage in question period, calling out Council for resurrecting what he called a dead issue.

“I don’t understand why this council wants to go down this road again,” Mr. Garisto said. “I have a major concern (if the Town hires a consultant to review the numbers). We will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on that.”

Mayor Brown retorted “we (Town Council) were elected to go down this road again”.

Due to the OPP having revamped the way it handles municipal costing proposals, Orangeville won’t have to wait nearly as long as it did last time around to receive a report. It took the OPP more than two years to provide anything of note during the previous process. This time around, some members of council estimate it could take as little as six months. 

CAO Ed Brennan explained that staff would now send a letter to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (now headed by Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones) formally requesting another costing proposal. He noted staff would also start the search for potential consultants. 

When asked for his thoughts on when Orangeville could expect to see a costing proposal arrive from the OPP, Mr. Brennan suggested it might be sooner than most think.

“There is no timeline we can confirm at this time, however, from my understanding, there is not a lot, if any, other municipalities in the queue for an OPP costing at this time,” Mr. Brennan concluded. 

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