Toronto

Toronto police task force mulls charging new 911 fee

The Toronto police overhaul could wind up costing you money, in the form of a new fee on your phone bill.

Ontario among 3 provinces where residents don’t pay fee to operate 911 call centres

Torontonians would have to pay a new 911 service fee if a task force modernizing the city's police force gets its way. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

The Toronto police overhaul could wind up costing you money, in the form of a new fee on your phone bill.

The transformational task force, which is aiming to modernize the city's police service and cut down on its $1 billion budget, proposes adding a new 911 "cost recovery fee" for all land and wireless telephone users.

Currently, everyone pays their phone carrier a service fee, which goes toward maintaining the network. But Toronto police — which answers the calls for police, fire and paramedics — doesn't charge a specific fee.

Across Canada, provincial governments or municipal governments charge an additional fee to run their 911 operations ranging from 40-75 cents per month.

Ontario is one of only three provinces that doesn't charge a 911 user fee, said Cheryl McNeil, a public safety operations planner with the police force who is serving on the task force.

It's too early to say how much the potential fee would cost, McNeil said, but the fee would likely be charged monthly.

Coun. Shelley Carroll, a member of the Toronto police services board, defended the cost recovery fee after the board met Friday.

"People might balk at it, but what we're talking about is a model that works in eight provinces and yet we have one of the most expensive 911 operations out there," she told CBC News. "When we say modernizing, we mean harmonizing with what's been going on in a number of places."

A few people on Toronto's streets questioned why they should pay for the 911 service.

"It should remain free," Richard Juffour told CBC News. "It's been free for however long we've been using the system so why now?"

The average Canadian fee is 45 cents per month (or $5.40 per year). Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest fees, charging its residents 75 cents per month ($9 per year) for 911 services.

The task force's report, which was debated by the city's police board, notes the proposed fee would also: "provide the foundation for future investments in new 911 technology including allowing the service to receive text messages, photos, videos and better location information."

No details were released about how the city would go about collecting the money. 

With files from Michelle Cheung

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