By Lisa Dumontier
A Government of Canada program providing much needed police officers to regional detachments is about to dry up despite substantial lobbying by the provincial government and police services boards Ontario-wide. Already among the highest in the province, the discontinuation of the Police Officers Recruitment Program will put further strain on policing costs for the Municipality of Red Lake which will pay more then $2 million in 2012 and—without the $77,000 provided through the initiative—could see a 1.19 per cent tax increase to local residents to cover the shortfall in 2013.
Launched by the federal government in 2008, the Police Officers Recruitment Program was initiated in an effort to improve community safety by providing financial assistance to provinces and municipalities trying to recruit much needed police officers. Intended from its onset to be a five-year program, the fund has dried up and despite lobbying from various provinces, First Nations advocates and communities, will likely wrap up come 2013.
As it funds police officers in communities acrossCanada, the discontinuation of the federal recruitment program will have repercussions across the board and for First Nations communities, the results could be especially devastating. According to Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, which currently receives funding for 11 officers through the federal fund, when the program ends in March the police service will be out $1.1 million dollars and likely a well-utilized canine unit. Equally frustrated, the regional Treaty Three Police served notice in June that should the fund be discontinued as expected, the force will lose seven of its officers and will no longer be able to provide adequate police services across its catchment area.
Continuing to lobby for assistance, the Municipality of Red Lake is hardly a stranger to high police costs and has relied on initiatives like the Police Officers Recruitment Program to help lessen the increasing impact of police services on local ratepayers. Reiterating that high costs do not reflect the great policing service that is received throughout the Red Lake area, but rather are based on a provincial formula that isn’t adding up, Municipal CAO Brian Anderson confirmed last week that police costs for 2012 are expected to ring in at $2,388,904—an expenditure which is decidedly headed in one direction: up.
“These costs do not include the reconciliation that is completed at the end of each year,” explained Anderson who noted that the average reconciliation since 1999 has been $223,670 and for the last five years has been $347,455. “I would estimate that the reconciled policing costs for 2012 will be between $2,041,449 (946.43 per household) and $2,165,234 ($1,003.82 per household) which are still the highest costs per household in northwesternOntario. We have never looked at all ofOntario, but the Municipal costs that I have seen for the rest of the province are well under our costs.”
As confirmed by Anderson, the Municipality also receives a Police Services Grant from the province within its Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund—as does every other municipality in Ontario that qualifies—and in 2012 we will receive $848,100 to support local police services. But even with that allotment, the 2013 withdrawal of federal support via its Police Officers Recruitment Program is bound to have an impact locally.