Waterloo Regional Police face more than $800K shortfall after provincial grant cuts
Community safety at risk without appropriate funding, Chief Bryan Larkin says
The Waterloo Regional Police Service is facing a funding cut of more than $800,000 after changes to provincial grants for policing.
In April, the Ontario government announced several ongoing grant programs would be rolled into a single Community Safety and Policing grant program.
WRPS was expecting to get $3.3 million from the previous grants, but under the new program, it will only be able to apply for up to $2.48 million for local frontline and community policing initiatives.
The service will also have to compete with the 50 other police services in Ontario for part of a $3.9 million fund, set aside for provincial priorities including gun and gang violence, sexual violence and harassment, and human trafficking.
Chief Bryan Larkin says none of the money is guaranteed, but he will advocate for the region to get its fair share.
"I'm really confident that our police service and police services board will submit grant applications which are robust [and] evidence-based, and I will continue to advocate for our share of the provincial allocation," he said.
"Our community needs it, our community deserves it, and quite frankly our police service is at a state where we're doing fantastic work, but if we don't continue appropriate funding, I believe we'll regress and we'll see impact on public safety and community safety."
Policing underfunded, chief says
Policing in Ontario has been consistently underfunded at the provincial and federal levels, Larkin said, which has resulted in municipalities bearing the brunt of the costs as the job has become more challenging and complex.
"Ninety-six to 97 per cent of the funding comes from the municipality, it comes from the citizens," he explained. "Yet a lot of the work that we do are based on provincial and federal initiatives and legislation that is controlled federally and provincially, where the municipality has no control."
Larkin said there needs to a larger conversation about funding for policing and public safety going forward.
In the meantime, he said the service will be crunching the numbers to come up with a financial plan to deal with the shortfall in the coming weeks.
A detailed report is expected at the police services board meeting in June.
Changes to funding
In an emailed statement, Richard Clark, director of communications for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, said the ministry is moving to a three-year funding cycle, rather than an annual one, to provide police services and municipalities with "greater certainty."
"This transformation will ensure the long-term sustainability of police grants in Ontario, and allow us to make further investments in community safety, just as we have as gun violence increases in Toronto; gangs become more prominent in Ottawa; and smaller police services struggle with gangs moving into their communities," Clark wrote.
He also said the government has "maintained funding levels available to police services."
"While the vast majority of the funding will be available to police for local priorities, we've created a stream accessible by police services to tackle the most heinous crimes, including human trafficking, online child exploitation, and violent gun and gang activity," he wrote.