In an interview with CTV Barrie at 6pm tonight, Mayor Gord McKay is pleased with the transition to the OPP and hopeful that those who did not find employment will find new work and that the savings will be realized in the years to come.
The mayor was under fire for the past week for not committing to paying the 14 displaced staff who were not hired by the OPP, of which 10 applied and were rejected. It was learned days after the disbandment, and maybe due to public shaming or legal efforts by the police union, that the town has committed to paying the displaced staff their usual salary and benefits (which include their health coverage and pension contributions) until the arbitration process which is reported to be sometime mid-March. The mayor commits to this on the news coverage tonight (see video above) which should bring some reassurance to the staff who were faced with going without income until the arbitration settles the matter of their severances and how they can choose to take them.
What continues to be strange is the mayor’s insistence that the town will be better served by the OPP than the community police, implying that the OPP give Midland access to more resources. This myth was dispelled years ago when it was learned that the OPP provides all those resources to Midland and every other community in Ontario upon request and for no extra charge – since we all pay Provincial taxes to the OPP no matter who polices us. The millions of Toronto taxpayers pay for OPP services that they will likely never use and Midland may infrequently have used.
As for the savings, since our Council accepted an OPP quote for policing for the next three years HIGHER than the cost of keeping Midland Police in the hopes (and without ANY assurances from the OPP) that the costs will magically drop by 1 million dollars a year in the fourth year, we will all wait to see if our Councillors and those that pushed so hard for this divestment of local public safety were right or wrong.
Political careers are made and destroyed over decisions like this and the voter will have their say in October 2018. Why this council could not simply defer this decision the voters in a few short months will haunt the incumbents who seemingly had to push this decision through before the election. Other communities like North Bay and Espanola, and like many before Midland, have decided that the potential for savings is unprovable and the loss of local jobs not worth the risk – voting to keep their community police departments. See this link for more: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/sudbury/north-bay-espanola-local-police-opp-1.4534652
You will recall that during this process Mayor McKay avoided qualitative questions stating this is “not about the quality of policing”, even praising MPS staff. Questions such as response times, actual boots on the ground were all ignored and were also not part of the consultants work. The only comparison that was made was the number of officers each service provided, and that was identical after the Mayor and CAO added two officers to MPS’s budget.
Now, as he becomes less sure of savings, he changes the narrative to give himself an out. If OPP is less expensive he will say, “see we saved you money”. If service goes down he will say, “sometimes you have to give things up to save”. If OPP is more expensive he will say, “it’s not just about money, it’s about the safety of our community”. The safety of the community was never part of the study because he could never argue that the community was unsafe before or any safer after.
We will be waiting for the details about the true costs of disbanding the police including severance payment, legal expenses for going to arbitration and the like as well as the upgrades and renovations to the police office downtown and add those to the growing costs associated with saving us money? In the meantime, we trust that our mayor will continue to sleep well at night.