Government announces consultation on re-composition of OPP boards

ONTARIO – While concerns have been raised in relation to the provincial government announcement that province-wide consultations on the drafting of regulations needed to support the establishment of new OPP detachment boards are taking place, (and the potential that community policing advisory councils like the one for Manitoulin Island could be affected) a representative of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario says (AMO) says these municipal concerns are being listened to by the province.

“We have heard the news from the province and yes there are concerns, but the advice is, apparently the ministry is listening, they are taking the municipalities’ concerns very serious and if they can get to the consultation meetings, municipalities should attend. And if this is not possible they should send a letter to the Solicitor General’s Office,” said Jamie McGarvey, chair of AMO. 

“We will have our representatives at the meetings,” said Mr. McGarvey. “I definitely think there needs to be consultation. Municipalities need to make sure the government knows their issues, and that they want to protect their area’s interests.”

Al Boyd, chair of the Manitoulin Community Police Advisory Committee (and a Northeast Town councillor) told the Recorder, “the (government) announcement went out province-wide to all municipalities. ‘This letter and issues have been brought to the attention of our municipality and CPAC,” but he indicated the issue hasn’t been dealt with yet and more information is needed before he would comment.

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general, wrote to heads of council on January 15 to announce province-wide consultations on the drafting of regulations needed to support the establishment of new OPP detachment boards. These discussions will include aligning the billing framework to allocate costs between municipalities with a shared OPP detachment board. AMO strongly encourages the participation of local elected officials in these discussions, an AMO release explains.

“For municipalities, the goal of this engagement is a regulatory framework that supports successful and effective governance and delivers strong local civilian oversight of policing by the OPP. This should include mechanisms for every municipal council to be represented on an OPP detachment board and the equitable distribution of costs between municipalities,” the release continues.

The need for new OPP governance regulations is as a result of the new Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019. Key governance-related changes include: Structure of Boards and Local Say there shall be one OPP detachment board per detachment (with flexibility for unique situations and geography). A board’s composition, terms of office, and remuneration will be provided for in regulations and have yet to be determined. In effect, these changes extend police governance to about 200 municipalities (which do not have a board, i.e. Section 5.1) but will consolidate multiple existing boards within a detachment.

The AMO release notes that for Activity of Boards—boards shall determine local objectives, priorities and policies in consultation with the detachment commander, consistent with the solicitor general’s strategic plan for the OPP; boards shall consult with the commissioner of the OPP regarding the selection of the detachment commander; the detachment commander shall prepare and adopt a local action plan in consultation with the board; training for board members will become mandatory (ministry support and funding is needed).

In the area of financial considerations, “there will be no distinction between contract and non-contract in the future,” the AMO release notes. “Effectively all policing will become contract; the focus of the billing-related regulations will be to address transition matters and to account for service differences between municipalities as well as existing contracts expiring at the end of 2020. It should be noted, billing model changes will not lower the overall cost of policing for the municipal sector.”

“AMO has impressed upon the ministry the need for open and transparent discussions; a recognition that policing is fundamentally local (i.e. it is important to maintain the close proximity of a community to its board and the police); locally workable governance arrangements and the representation of every municipal council,” the AMO release continues.

The AMO release says that key municipal considerations for elected officials participating in the government’s consultation include: For communities without existing police service or detachment boards, boards are an opportunity to expand the democratic oversight and governance of policing. For communities with existing OPP boards; the legislation aims to consolidate existing municipal board boundaries with OPP detachment board boundaries (thus potentially including multiple neighbouring municipalities in the same detachment which could potentially mean the Manitoulin CPAC could be merged with the Espanola board). However, the legislation provides for flexibility to address unique geographic circumstances. If you feel your area’s needs are unique, help the Ministry understand that uniqueness in a  province-wide context. The size and composition of detachment boards have not been determined. This is your opportunity to inform the regulations which will determine board composition. On the issue of policing costs, speak to your local circumstances. Highlight areas where your property taxpayers would benefit from greater transparency or illustrate steps that could be taken to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policing in your community (i.e. shift scheduling). This should include highlighting the need that all new policing regulations (governance and operations) should aim to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policing and not drive policing costs even higher. On the issue of OPP billing, note that billing changes alone will not lower the overall cost of policing by the OPP. As noted above, the exercise will account for transition, service differences and contract impacts to equitably distribute and align costs across the detachment through existing billing.

“In my experience in dealing with Minister Jones, she  does listen and takes to heard what people have to say,” said Mr. McGarvey. “Municipalities and stakeholders need to make sure their concerns are voiced.”