August 11, 2016

A lot has changed in the past 25 years – Canada’s population is older, the crime rate is lower and the internet has changed how we work, play and live.

Yet the laws that govern policing in Ontario haven’t changed. That is why municipal officials, gathered this week the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual conference, are hoping to see the province take action soon.

Municipalities are responsible for providing police services, as set out by the province’s Police Services Act. The Act sets standards for police services, sets out responsibilities for policing, and identifies core police activities. The province consulted with stakeholder over the spring on a long overdue update of this legislation.

For their part, municipal governments, through AMO, provided nearly three dozen recommendations on how to bring policing up to date in 2015. The recommendations cover a broad range, including: having civilians take on responsibility for non-policing work currently done by officers; strengthening civilian oversight and governance of police; and, improving partnership and collaboration within communities and across orders of government.

Municipalities are also calling for changes to interest arbitration, the system used to settle contracts for employees that can’t go on strike. Through interest arbitration, emergency service workers are consistently awarded wage and benefit increases that outpace inflation and outpace increases given to other employees of the same municipality.

 “Per capita policing costs in Ontario are well above the national average and costs continue to climb at three times the rate of inflation. That is not sustainable for most communities,” says Gary McNamara, AMO President.  “If we want to create and maintain safe communities that we can afford to police over the long-term, we have to be willing to do things differently.”

“Municipal governments must balance policing costs with the host of other public services that keep communities safe and healthy, such as clean water, safe roads and bridges, social and recreation services, public health, long-term care and more,” McNamara added.