For the first time in an election campaign, the burg watch provided a forum for Amherstburg residents to submit questions to council candidates in 2014.
As a result, questions were raised about police costings, a hot topic given the amount of debt the municipality burdened its ratepayers with.
Of those that were elected, here’s how they answered:
Question 6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause
Q. If elected, will you commit to council obtaining an OPP costing and if appointed to the police services board, will you commit to removing the OPP takeover clause in the police contract? If running for re- election, why did you not consider doing the above?
A. With my labour background, and expertise in contract negotiations, this question is not difficult. For the record, I have negotiated 4 major contracts and facilitate workshops, related to bargaining preparation and successfully negotiating contracts. That said, I spoke with the major stakeholders related to this issue. The information I received was both confusing and frustrating. The current board has had 4 years, at least related to this contract, to request and obtain a costing to switch to OPP services. To my knowledge, no such costing has been requested to this date. Further, such costing has been free of charge to the municipality, but may actually require costs in the future. As a tax paying citizen, this particular point downright infuriates me. Why would the board not acquire something free that could help the Town decide what’s in their best interests. They might tell you that doing so could cause morale problems. However, I now know that they never bothered to even ask the Police Association, so this is just a speculative position. Now the final logic. For those who look at the current demographics of our current Police Force, they’ll notice that the average age is on the young side. Since there is a grandfather date in the contract, this clause wouldn’t apply to most of them. If you see where I’m going, now is the time to successfully remove the takeover clause. I’m sure there would be a minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause, but that’s why it’s called negotiations. There has to be give and take. I can’t honestly say which I’d prefer, municipal or provincial policing. What I can say, what I know, is that the current board didn’t do their due diligence in acquiring the information for us to make an educated decision on what would be best for the town…information that would have been ‘free’. I would definitely acquire this information, if given the chance, and then work with the appropriate parties to achieve what’s best for the Town, or more importantly, what the Town feels is best for them.
Question 13. Police Contract Buyout Clause
Q. The Town now is in the process of negotiating a new contract with our local police force. Within this contract (expires Dec 2014) is a clause which if activated could cost our town dearly! What is your knowledge of this buyout clause? what is your understanding of the rational behind the inclusion of it in our contract? What and how many officers would be involved? What would be the cost to our town if enforced one day? From my understanding, we are talking anywhere from 8-10 million dollars would be paid out to officers changing uniforms, not losing jobs? Your thoughts please!
A. Here’s what I know: The buyout clause was inserted sometime in the 1990’s during amalgamation of Essex County. At the time, pensions were not transferable from municipal policing to provincial policing plans. The clause was meant to compensate, or rather not penalize, officers who might be forced to switch. Since that time, municipal pension plans can be transferred to provincial for the officers who choose to go to the OPP. There would be a shortfall for the officers, as their current pension plans aren’t quite equal to the provincial plans. This could likely be negotiated at minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause as is. Approximately half of the current officers would be affected by the pre‐hire date of October 2001, that is, the officers hired prior to this date would receive the maximum 3 months’ pay for every year of service. The others would receive 3 weeks’ pay, I believe. I can’t tell you the exact figure for the cost if enforced today, but I’ve been told it is in the millions? Please see my answer to question 6 for more. As a matter of clarification for those that might think the Police Association has some control over the costing from OPP, they do not. The costing for OPP services must be done by the Board. Please look up who is currently on the Board and ask them why they have never bothered to cost out the OPP services or ask the Association for their position?…at least not to my knowledge.
Edited in original document: I have recently been corrected on who is required to request the costing for OPP. I am told that the OPP costing must be requested by Council, not the Police Board. The rest of my position remains the same. There has been numerous years to request OPP costing by Council, of which there was no cost to the Town.
Question 18. Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause
Q. Do you believe the Poison Pill Clause should be eliminated in the Police Contract in order to get an OPP costing to compare the costs of policing of OPP versus Amherstburg Police.
A. Please see my answers to questions 6 and 13. No offence to the author of the question, but I would not refer to the clause as the ‘Poison Pill’. It is a clause that had legitimate compensation when it was first introduced. It may not be in the best interests of the Town today, but I believe it can be addressed appropriately.