Mark MacDonald open to O.P.P. for Cornwall, city cops patrolling SD&G

CNW Exclusive

(Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL/SD&G – While he’s happy to “see some restraint” on the cost of emergency services, Cornwall Coun. Mark MacDonald isn’t ruling out alternatives to bring down the cost of policing.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch following Monday’s first presentation of the city budget, MacDonald indicated he is open to the idea of looking at a costing for O.P.P. service or having city police overseeing the United Counties.

The veteran maverick councillor has repeated the mantra this term that the cost of emergency services for the city are not sustainable long term.

Emergency services will cost 44 cents for every tax dollar that comes into the city this year, down from previous years where it was hovering around 50 cents.

The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety limited its moratorium on O.P.P. costing on Nov. 1, 2015.

In December, Midland, a town of 16,572 residents, made a costing request from the O.P.P. and the City of Brockville is, again, looking at the cost of the provincial police force.

MacDonald was steadfast that the municipality is in control of its emergency services. “We can blame the arbitrators and the provincial government but we control the budget.”

“I think a lot of options should be on the table and, in even a reverse way, there’s maybe no reason why we can’t be servicing and, taking into consideration of us, providing police services for the counties. I don’t think it works just one way,” MacDonald told CNW.

“I think the time has come to share services, not only with respect to the police, but fire. We do with the paramedics so it’s time to look at all our options.”

“Maybe there’s an opportunity for us to partner with the counties and for us to provide policing.”

“It doesn’t always just come down to the money, it comes down to the services provided. In other words, there maybe an overlap in services.”

Warden: Economies of scale make sense for SD&G to be with O.P.P.

But United Counties Warden Jamie MacDonald told CNW they are happy with the service they have now.

“Eighteen-point-one million (dollars in Cornwall) to service 45,000 people. We are 64,000 people and our budget is $10 million and change. The economies of scale by going with the O.P.P. just makes sense for us,” MacDonald said.

The warden said the cost of other resources, like canine units, are spread across the province, keeping the costs low. “Cornwall buys police cars, they buy three at a time. The O.P.P. buys 300 at a time.”

Even if SD&G and Cornwall were to share the $18.1 million city force, MacDonald suggests that number would balloon in order to add detachments, staff, cars and other equipment, leaving the United Counties no further ahead.

MacDonald, also the North Glengarry deputy mayor, said the city force was looked at when the North Glengarry Police Service was disbanded and “at that time it wasn’t feasible to go with Cornwall.”

“At this time, we’re very happy with our O.P.P. services.”

That being said, the warden was asked whether Cornwall should cost out the O.P.P.

“They (Cornwall) have a great force, but municipalities have always got to be looking at how you can save some money. To make themselves feel good about what they’re budgets are, they should definitely cost that out with the O.P.P.,” MacDonald said.

“At the end of the day it’s not a bad exercise to go through.”

Parkinson: Policing change needs ‘political will’

Having been through a “very successful” amalgamation of a police force in the Toronto-area, Cornwall Police Chief Dan Parkinson said this is a political decision and there needs to be “political will” to follow through.

“Given the opportunity, we could successfully police a larger community, there’s no question of that, given the right amount of budget dollars coming our way. But, again, we don’t shop ourselves around,” the chief said.

“Nothing would happen without the political will to do that. The counties seem to be satisfied with what they have. The City of Cornwall we know is very satisfied with the policing services they have,” Parkinson said.

The chief also discounted the warden’s assertion the city doesn’t have buying power when it comes to infrastructure, like police cars.

Parkinson said the city has “consistently come back” with favourable support for city police and he is not worried if the city looks at costing out the O.P.P. service.

“We maintain that our effectiveness and the level of support that we have … they (the public) are highly satisfied with (the service) they are receiving. I just don’t see things changing.”

The chief said they are aware of the sensitively of budgets, which is why the increase in the Cornwall Community Police Service budget for 2016 is less than one per cent.

“We are very well aware of the need to be being fiscally responsible with what we do and that’s the approach we are going to continue to take.”