Province-Wide Parties Debate on Accessibility and Disability Issues

Accessibility is not exactly a buzz word during any election campaign, but we are all governed by the provincial accessibility legislation and its regulations, as well as the Human Rights Code.

And, if senior is a buzz word during the Amherstburg election campaign, the sector is directly affected by elected officials’ decisions to strengthen a commitment to people with disabilities or not.

The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) Inc., organizer of Province-Wide Parties Debate on Accessibility and Disability Issues, invite people with disabilities and their allies from across Ontario to ask questions to each party regarding: Accessible/Subsidized/Supportive Housing, Employment, Poverty Reduction Strategies, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Education and other disability issues.

May 16, 2018, from 6 to 8.30 pm Debate Livestream Webcast: https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/72/live/1807.aspx.

Public Meeting Re Windsor Police Takeover in Amherstburg

The Windsor Star reported, “The commission deciding the fate of Amherstburg police wants to meet with residents.”

According to the article, CAO Miceli said, “Public consultation is part of the OCPC’s process,” adding the public meetings are not meant to seek community approval.

The ONTARIO CIVILIAN POLICE COMMISSION (OCPC) is not required to hold a public meeting; in fact it did not hold one in St. Marys, the model often referred to. The OCPC asked the City of St. Marys to provide a written submission setting out the proposed policing arrangement and approved it.

However, OCPC will consult with Amherstburg residents regarding council’s decision to have Windsor Police take over policing in Amherstburg.

Police Costing – The Best Deal?

As mentioned in the post, Meloche Wants Deputy Mayor Seat, Meloche referenced the deal with Windsor Police to take over policing Amherstburg.

According to the RTT article, Meloche said Essex had $3.9 million in policing costs in 2018 compared to Amherstburg’s $5.8 million.

The article continued, “Overall, we thought it’s a good deal for Amherstburg as a whole,” he said, noting there are $14 million in potential savings over the next 20 years.

Here’s my math:

Essex paid $1.9 million less on policing than Amherstburg.

Amherstburg’s $5.8 million minus $700,000.00 potential annual savings for 20 years will cost taxpayers $102 million.

Essex’s $3.9 million will cost taxpayers $78 million in 20 years.

While Amherstburg is expected to save $14 million, Essex taxpayers will spend $24 million less than us over the same time period.

I maintain that because Amherstburg did not obtain an OPP costing, despite carrying two motions to do so, Amherstburg taxpayers missed the opportunity to know if more savings were possible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Amherstburg Taxpayers Losers In Policing Decision

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Council’s motivation to compare policing costs was the level of municipal debt and it was committed to obtaining an OPP costing; it carried two motions to do so.

There were also other cost-saving options to reduce the police budget’s share of municipal taxes.

Council could have established the police budget and maybe taxpayers wouldn’t have been burdened with items like body worn cameras that large police services couldn’t afford because of data storage.

Despite claims over the years that the board was autonomous, according to the Police Services Act: Upon reviewing the estimates, the council shall establish an overall budget for the board for the purposes described in clauses (1) (a) and (b) and, in doing so, the council is not bound to adopt the estimates submitted by the board.

Council could have decided the taxpayers should only pay for a three member Police Services Board instead of the five recommended for a large police service.

Had council elected the OPP in 1998, when the OPP communication system was province wide, taxpayers might have realized $1 million savings annually, or $20 million by now, that could have been put toward infrastructure.

Instead, Amherstburg depended on others for dispatching and switched services a number of times from LaSalle, to Leamington, back to LaSalle, then to Windsor.

The proposed benefits of the 1998 amalgamation were identified as follows:

  1. operating costs would be stabilized through efficiencies;
  2. human resources would be deployed more efficiently;
  3. specialized police units would become financially viable due to the economics of scale;
  4. labour relations matters would be simplified;
  5. larger pool of human resources available to deal with major incidents;
  6. communications and computer systems would be enhanced; and
  7. several other benefits both to the service and to the public.

Amherstburg had access to the OPP specialized units and did require them on occasion, but will taxpayers now pay for specialized Windsor units 365 days a year whether they are needed or not?

The OPP’s mandate is to patrol the waterways so how necessary was an Amherstburg Police marine unit? Will a Windsor Police marine unit continue to be an unnecessary municipal expenditure?

The Police Services Board could have put an end to the OPP ‘poison pill’ clause in the police contract that seemed to inhibit the town obtaining an OPP costing.

The Windsor Star reported that Taxpayers in Windsor pay more per capita for policing than all other parts of Essex county, sometimes double that of its county neighbours policed by the OPP.

Given those verified figures, and because Amherstburg did not obtain an OPP costing as it was committed to doing, twice, Amherstburg taxpayers lost an opportunity to know if a better cost saving option was possible.

Consequently, no one can claim we got the best bang for our buck, despite that being the goal.

For the past twenty years I have maintained the Amherstburg Police hierarchical structure was costly and unnecessary; after all these years Windsor Police’s proposal to save money will see the hierarchy change.

No Answers Equals No Transparency Or Accountability

Commentary by Linda Saxon

On February 27, 2018, I requested CAO John Miceli answer three questions for me to post to theburgwatch.

  1. Were any Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services Police Service Advisors involved in the police costing process?
  2. Would you provide me with a copy of Berthiaume’s Completed Form as requested by the OPP?
  3. Would you confirm whether or not Council’s two motions to obtain an OPP costing were rescinded?

On March 1, I emailed Miceli, cc council, that if he was unavailable to respond to my media questions, if he would please forward them to someone who can.

Eight minutes later, Miceli responded:

“All of the questions that you are asking are in relation to an OPP costing process. As you may or may not know the Town did not request an OPP costing instead the Town developed an RFP dictating the minimum level of service requested from proponents. Council approved this method of procurement of services and the OPP was invited to participate in the process. The OPP elected not to respond to the Town’s RFP. All of this was disclosed in public reports. With that being the case I do not believe I can offer you any further information.”

Unsure that there had been any investigation into obtaining the requested documentation, I emailed Miceli back:

“If you review my questions, the first involves Ministry Advisors, as mentioned in the OACP Guidebook you relied on and i’m merely asking if any were involved in the police costing process, in other words, the costing process the town undertook.

i conclude from your response that Berthiaume never did complete the form for the OPP; did he complete an equivalent form for Windsor?

The third question, if you refer to it again, relates to council’s two motions to obtain an OPP costing and whether or not they were rescinded; council’s motions are not part of the OPP costing process, as you well know. “

Police Costing Process – Transparent and Accountable?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

I emailed members of council the following:

As happy as I would be to be rid of Berthiaume, the Amherstburg police service and board, I fail to see how a contract with Windsor police will benefit the ratepayers, never mind entrenching a 20 year contract.

I wonder what all of you would say about such a contract if you were campaigning against a current council right now.

In my opinion, this costing process has not been transparent and it lacked accountability and responsibility.

Shortly after being elected, council was committed to obtaining all police costing comparisons.

The media reported that a committee was established to discuss costings. 

The JPAC recommended that administration be directed to hire MPM Consulting and the media reported in January 2017 a consultant was hired to “weigh the benefits of keeping its own police force, amalgamating with another force or hiring the OPP.”

At the same time, the JPAC recommended that administration be directed to, in part, develop an RFP for Windsor and LaSalle to respond to and work with the OPP on the OPP costing.

It appeared the OPP would still be an option and that council was committed to its two motions to obtain an OPP costing despite the committee determining earlier the OPP costing was not feasible.

Council should have held administration and the JPAC accountable for not implementing council’s motions.

The River Town Times reported Town council wants to make the decision once and doesn’t want to accept or reject any proposal without knowing all the details, DiCarlo said. “It was always council’s position to look at all of the options at the same time,” he said. “The goal is to have all of the information in front of us.” (emphasis added).

In the end, taxpayers were denied an opportunity to provide input on a comparison of all policing costs and options and instead were reduced to submitting subjective and emotional responses to a limited choice.

AMENDMENTS TO THE MUNICIPAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT

Effective March 1, 2019, The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is amended by adding the following section:

Principles

1.1 The Province of Ontario endorses the following principles in relation to the duties of members of councils and of local boards under this Act:

1. The importance of integrity, independence and accountability in local government decision-making. (emphasis added).

2. The importance of certainty in reconciling the public duties and pecuniary interests of members.

3. Members are expected to perform their duties of office with integrity and impartiality in a manner that will bear the closest scrutiny.

4. There is a benefit to municipalities and local boards when members have a broad range of knowledge and continue to be active in their own communities, whether in business, in the practice of a profession, in community associations, and otherwise.

Three Then-Candidates Did Not Answer Questions About OPP Costing

As a result of the burg watch inviting residents to submit questions to council candidates in 2014, three questions were raised about police costings, a hot topic given the amount of debt the municipality burdened its ratepayers with.

Leo Meloche, Joan Courtney, Rick Fryer did not answer any of the three questions:

Question 6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause

Question 13. Police Contract Buyout Clause

Question 18. Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause

Facts About OPP Costing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In response to Glenn Swinton’s letter to the editor, River Town Times.

Glenn Swinton asked some sensible questions; however I wonder if one might not have been posed had the facts been known.

Mr. Swinton asked, “why are we now ‘negotiating’ the RFP with Windsor and not trying to accommodate or meet service levels from the other services that didn’t want to meet the RFP in the first place?”

The then-newly formed Joint Police Advisory Committee determined in July 2016 the OPP costing process was not feasible and the Municipality should drive the process to include bids.

While some municipalities issue RFPs for consultants and establish costing committees to compare all policing options, Amherstburg devised a Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) to ‘guide the development for a Request For Proposal (RFP) and hired a consultant to assist the committee.

It wasn’t that the OPP opted out; the OPP were ready to commence the costing proposal process for Amherstburg in June 2017 following the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services approved OPP costing process.

The OPP requested dates to schedule a meet and greet and asked CAO John Miceli to forward the Municipal Police Service Profile form to Chief Berthiaume or his designate for completion and return within four weeks; this would have been step three of the process.

The RFP was issued in July 2017. Everyone involved ought to have known an RFP for services was a different process than the Ministry-approved OPP costing process implemented around the province.

The JPAC received the OPP Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process detailing the steps to be followed. And, even though the committee used guidelines for the review of policing options from the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the OPP process was also detailed in it.

The committee also discussed public consultation prior to the RFP even being developed and ratepayers should have had the opportunity to express the level of policing service they expect.

Instead, the public’s choice was limited to maintaining the status quo or selecting Windsor Police Service without knowing if there were better alternatives, despite elected officials’ promises to explore all cost saving options.

Amherstburg’s Request For Proposal (RFP) Policing Services

Commentary by Linda Saxon

On November 14, 2017, I emailed CAO Miceli for the Request For Proposal.

Since I received no response from Miceli, on November 19 I emailed everyone on council requesting it from them.

Following some misunderstanding about what I was actually requesting, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo advised me that the Request For Proposal was public and would be forthcoming. 

The next day, on November 20, Miceli emailed the RFP AMHERSTBURG POLICE SERVICES.

Council Should Get Police Costings For ALL Options

Commentary by Linda Saxon

I submitted the following to be placed on council’s agenda, cc’d to members of council:

I request that you adhere to your commitment to obtaining an OPP costing and to follow the procedure set out in the OPP Information Manual, which includes community consultation.

This council has sought RFPs for legal services: “I just think it is fiscally responsible,” said Courtney, adding her belief that there are other firms that could give a competitive rate to the town.

Council also sought a Request for Proposals (RFP) to try and get more costings for the mosquito situation. Miceli also stated in his report to council that an RFP would address accountability and transparency issues as sole-sourcing the service could cause a political backlash. An RFP would also see if the town could get more value for their money, he added.

An RFP was issued for the Concession 2 North bridge.

The only way taxpayers will know if they are getting the most effective and efficient policing service is by a full cost comparison, which would include the OPP.

Our community deserves the full benefit of a cost comparison of all policing options as well as public meetings regarding the highest budget item.

Information About OPP Costing Process and Adequate And Effective Policing Readily Available

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The River Town Times article, OPP Does Not Give Costing by Ron Giofu, reports, in part, that DiCarlo didn’t doubt the OPP provides an excellent police service, he said he didn’t understand their costing model. He said while the town understands it would get “adequate and effective” policing from the OPP, “they won’t tell us exactly what that means.”

I would have thought that as an Amherstburg Police Services Board member, Mayor DiCarlo would have access to the Police Services Act, (PSA) that stipulates every municipality shall adequate and effective services in accordance with its needs and sets out, at a minimum what that must include.

Also, the October 20, 2017 Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process reiterates the same and also includes information about the Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation under the PSA :

“The Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation (Adequacy Standards) helps ensure the effective delivery of policing services. It was filed as O.Reg. 3/99 on January 8, 1999.

The regulation was part of the government’s overall strategy to provide Police Services Boards (PSB) and police services, the structure and tools they needed to ensure adequacy and effectiveness. All police services were to be in compliance by January 1, 2001.

Additionally, the regulation required all PSBs to develop a plan, setting out the steps needed to be taken by the board and the police service in order to meet the requirements of the regulation.

The Adequacy Standards regulation content is high level. It provides flexibility in implementation, including service delivery i.e. contracting with another police service or organization, or providing crime prevention initiatives on a regional or cooperative basis.

The primary focus of the Adequacy Standards regulation is on what police services do, and not how they should do it. Overall, it is designed to ensure that all Ontarians receive core police services.”

The OPP’s Information Manual clearly sets out costing timelines and steps, and oh, look at step 6:

“Municipal Council Consideration/Public Consultation and Decision.”

Have Amherstburg taxpayers been denied an opportunity to compare and provide input on ALL police costing proposals? Since it is only after council’s decision to move forward with the ‘local’ or Windsor Police options, I have to ask, as Mayoral candidate Aldo DiCarlo did during the 2014 campaign: “Did a single one of the current council members do their due diligence in requesting an OPP costing early enough so that we could have reviewed our options now that the contract is being negotiated? I believe the answer is no, and I’d be happy to be wrong.”

In response to the Commentary, “No Commitment To Remove OPP Clause In Police Contract,” then- Mayoral Candidate Aldo DiCarlo’s full comment posted on October 17, 2014 was:

This is an issue that I have spent a considerable amount of time on, specifically because of the large potential savings, $1M or more. At last night’s debate, Deputy Mayor Suttherland stated that an OPP costing takes at least 18 months. As a taxpaying resident, not a just a mayoral candidate, this both angers and frustrates me. If it does indeed take this amount of time, why then did not a single council member make the motion to request the OPP costing. If one of them did, I would like to know who and why it was voted down. ALL contracts have an expiry date. Did a single one of the current council members do their due diligence in requesting an OPP costing early enough so that we could have reviewed our options now that the contract is being negotiated? I believe the answer is no, and I’d be happy to be wrong.