Mayor skeptical Ottawa police can work with 2022 budget

Mayor Jim Watson says he'll take the next few days to analyze a motion passed unanimously by the Ottawa Police Services Board late Tuesday to limit the increase in the 2022 police budget to two per cent.

Police board approved budget increase of 2%, less than requested by service

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he would analyze a police budget with a two per cent increase and speak with Chief Peter Sloly about how the force can achieve that. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

Mayor Jim Watson says he'll take the next few days to analyze a motion passed unanimously by the Ottawa Police Services Board late Tuesday to limit the increase in the 2022 police budget.

The board unanimously approved a budget that limits an increase to two per cent — deciding not to cut the police budget, but to cut into the police request by $2.65 million. Ottawa police had requested a 2.9 per cent increase compared to its 2021 budget.

The reduction would mainly come from cost savings and police would receive $11 million in new money.

"I certainly have been very clear that I do not support any movement to defund the police that would affect frontline services or start to see layoffs of police officers," Watson told reporters after Wednesday's meeting of Ottawa city council.

"The public certainly are telling me — not the ones that go out and block roads or have rallies at city hall — the public that I talked to … they want to see a greater police presence in their neighbourhood, particularly for things like speed enforcement."

The police are to find almost $3 million in "efficiencies" to meet their new budget restrictions, according to the board.

The move by the board came after more than a year of repeated calls by community groups to defund or freeze the police budget.

The mayor appeared skeptical the new budget limitations are doable. He pointed out the board and the police themselves are not historically successful at finding savings in their budget, and any budget overruns police rack up are paid for by the city at the end of the year, Watson said.

He said he would talk to Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly about whether the board-imposed budget envelope is workable.

"I want to hear his professional opinion on what we can do to ensure that any decisions by the police board are backed up with a realistic chance of being implemented," Watson said.

The mayor said he doesn't want to find out it's "a pie in the sky idea to find efficiencies and then come back at the end of the year and say we didn't find those efficiencies, and that will be my guiding light on those deliberations."

The Ottawa Police Service will get a budget increase next year, despite calls from many community groups that funding be freezed, or even reduced. All in a Day hears from Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition co-founder and co-chair Vanessa Dorimain about her disappointment with the budget, and what she hoped to see instead. 10:47

With files from Joanne Chianello and Shaamini Yogaretnam


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