As small municipalities across northeastern Ontario continue to struggle to pay for the cost of having the Ontario Provincial Police patrol their towns some mayors say progress is being made.
A year ago, Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis threatened to stop paying the OPP for their police work.
He was incensed that policing costs had doubled in just a few years — and that the price was non-negotiable.
After forming a coalition of mayors to lobby the province, Politis was pleased to see the OPP considering some his ideas. He was pleased enough that Cochrane kept paying its $2 million policing bill.
But Politis said the threat of non-payment is still on the table, as "we've run into a number of hurdles and struggles around people's willingness to reform."
According to Politis, towns served by the OPP need a greater say when salary increases and other budget decisions are made.
"You have one entity paying for the groceries, while the other one's buying the groceries."
Costs jump up
On Manitoulin Island, Little Current town council had to drop a lot from its budget to pay for policing while avoiding a huge hike in taxes.
Mayor Al MacNevin said council dropped "three or four pages of things we'd like to do in terms of operations, like road repairs and service improvements to our infrastructure."
The policing cost for the town has been jumping by seven or eight per cent each year, MacNevin said.
"Nobody's getting those kind of wage increases," he said. "It's hard … to swallow that, when people are freezing wages, we're getting increases of that size."
The OPP says it is looking for ways to cut costs for the cities and towns its serves, without endangering the public.
A coalition of 160 Ontario mayors was formed last year to lobby the province to make policing more affordable.
One suggestion is to open up police contracts to competitive bidding from the RCMP or police forces from other provinces.