The long wait is finally over. On Monday night, after much discussion and debate, Council voted to decide whether Orangeville Police Service (OPS) would continue to police the Town of Orangeville or if a change over to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would occur.
The recommendation that was printed in the agenda was that of the CAO, Ed Brennan, to accept the OPP costing as a cost saving measure to the Town. Councillor Wilson moved the motion and it was seconded by Councillor Bradley. Before the vote was taken, Deputy Mayor Maycock, who has been tight-lipped throughout the process, decided it was time to weigh in. I don’t usually quote an entire speech in my blog posts, but in my humble opinion, this one was quote-worthy.
“Let me start by saying that both the OPP and OPS are excellent police services and both provide excellent service. I also want to thank both services and Town Staff for providing all of the information that was requested of them. As we all know, this issue is very important and the decision we make could have long term consequences. During my time on Orangeville Council and Dufferin County Council, I have had to make many difficult decisions. I have had to make unpopular decisions. I voted in favour of making Dufferin County a single-tier municipality. I voted against purchasing the railway. I voted against borrowing $15 million to fund infrastructure projects. I voted against numerous budgets due to the burden on the taxpayer. I voted to enact the bylaw to ban the use of pesticides on your lawn. But I can assure you that every one of those decisions, like every decision I make at Council, I make based on what I think is the best decision for the community. I come to that decision by reviewing and pondering all of the information that is available at the time of the vote and I can assure you that I spent considerable time weighing all the facts on this critical issue. For all of you who have been following this issue, a lot of information and facts have been rehashed time over and over again and I will not bring them up again. But, there are a few facts and pieces of information that I used to help me make up my mind on this issue that I think have been ignored, or hardly mentioned that I want to share with you.
During the past several months, policing has been front and centre on our Council agenda and in the media, but actually this issue started back in 2014 when then Councillor Williams, Councillor Wilson, Councillor Bradley and Councillor Rose voted to have an OPP Costing. During the 2014 municipal election, only 3 candidates made policing a key issue in their campaign. One didn’t get elected and 2 are sitting around this table, although one has changed his views, none of the rest of us addressed policing. Once Council finally received the long awaited OPP Costing, the current members of Council have read hundreds of pages of reports, heard many hours of presentations, and have received many emails and phone calls about this important issue. By broadcasting our meetings, and making available our reports, council has attempted to keep our residents informed. The media has also played a role in informing the public, but like almost everything this council deals with, it turns into a circus. There are only 16 months in this term of Council, thankfully. Although this current OPP costing expires this August, another request can be made at any time and the Town would be put in the queue to receive another costing During the 16 months left of this Council, the OPP transitional contract and the one-time cost associated with that contract, would provide the Town with no savings No matter how the vote goes tonight, this issue, policing, will be the number one issue come the October 2018 election. As many of you know, I have put forth my name in 6 municipal elections. I have worked on numerous provincial and federal election campaigns. I have worked on leadership campaigns and I have been a political columnist. But more than that, I am a big believer in democracy. Even though I believe the electors got it wrong during the election of 2014, they got what they voted for. So I say, let the citizens of this great town decide. Let the candidates running in the October 2018 municipal election take a stand on this very important issue. And by doing so, the residents of Orangeville will get to decide.”
I appreciated the Deputy Mayor’s sentiments and I agree that this issue is bigger than these 7 people. It wasn’t a cop-out on his part (pun totally intended)…In my humble opinion, this was him listening to a great number of residents who believed this is an issue that needs to go to the people of Orangeville. His speech was met with a roar of applause and cheers from the gallery inside council chambers.
Councillor Garisto echoed the Deputy Mayor’s sentiments believing that a referendum during the next election is necessary. Councillor Kidd, who showed up at council wearing an OPP hat, spoke in favour of adopting the recommendation made by the CAO. Councillor Campbell spoke passionately in favour of keeping OPS. She did not support a costing from the get-go because she believes that a costing should have only come to fruition if we were unhappy with the level of service we were getting, which was not the case. “I’m voting for the Orangeville Police Service and I will not support this motion.”
Councillor Bradley, who has been vocal with her support of the OPP, listed all of the resources that OPP could bring to Orangeville. As for the cost, she compared OPS to being like a private school. “We all pay education tax, yet some people opt to send their children to private school and pay the hefty fees for that privilege. It’s the same with OPS. Taxpayers already pay for the OPP through the provincial taxes and yet we opt to have a private police service and we pay the extra fees. Unfortunately, the taxpayers don’t have that choice because if they want to send their kids to a private school, they make that choice. The politicians make the choice of spending their money on a more expensive police service and frankly, I don’t think we can afford the private service.” She also doesn’t think that this can wait until the next election because if we do, it would be at least 6 years before we would see savings. Councillor Wilson continued to show his support of the OPP because of the savings. “For me, it has never been about the (level) of service.” Councillor Wilson said, “My interest has always been in the cost savings because the cost savings can be translated into more infrastructure or tax savings.”
A vote of YES means supporting the OPP Costing while a vote of NO rejects the costing from OPP
Councillor Wilson – YES
Councillor Bradley – YES
Councillor Campbell – NO
Councillor Kidd – YES
Councillor Garisto – NO
Deputy Mayor Maycock – NO
Mayor Williams – NO
With a vote of 4-3, Council voted to reject the OPP costing and carry on with OPS handling the policing in Orangeville.
What Happens Now?
What happens now is that business will carry on as usual for OPS. While the debate of policing in Orangeville is done for now, I get the sense that this is far from over. This has been an issue that has torn apart the community for several years now with passionate arguments from both sides. Could this be the hot topic for the 2018 municipal election? Could it be put on the ballot during the election?
For now, I am happy that the vote is done. This is a prime opportunity for our elected officials to start showing some leadership by finding other ways to save on the next budget without relying on policing to get them there. This is also a great opportunity for the Orangeville Police Service to continue the path they’re on and continue to find ways to reduce the amount they’re spending every year and to find additional revenue streams to further save.
In Non-Policing News….
At the start of Council, a few awards were presented. Congratulations to Bob Burnside who accepted an award for ‘Senior of the Year’. Congratulations are also in order for Christine Patton of ‘Fromage’ who won the ‘Accessibility Award’ for working hard to make her store accessible to all residents. Councillor Gail Campbell was presented with an inaugural Municipal Accessibility Award from OMSSA for being a pioneer and champion for Accessibility. CONGRATS to all the Winners!!