“I ask again, what will it take to find more than 10 minutes to meet (virtual or in-person) with yourself and MPP Jill Dunlop over this significant concern from our community?”
This was the pointed question posed by Penetanguishene Mayor Doug Leroux in a letter sent to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones last week, the most recent in a series of requests seeking a solution on rising policing costs at the region's superjail.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, residents of the town of Penetanguishene will face a $373,952 bill for Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) policing costs under a new funding model. Finance staff scrambled last month to manage a 2022 budget solution through transfer reserves as a one-time-only stop-gap measure that won’t be available next year.
Leroux issued the letters as a response to the November 5 correspondence from Jones which reiterated the Solicitor General’s continued stance that “the province has agreed to continue to pay the invoices” for the 2020 and 2021 calendar years.
“Let it be clear,” added Leroux, “the residents of Penetanguishene are being saddled with $373,952 in costs as a result of your Ministry’s arbitrary decision to cease properly funding these provincial facilities.”
The mayor wrote that council and community were growing “increasingly frustrated” with the “intentional lack of communication and respect” shown by Jones.
Previously, Jones had stated the intent to work with the town to understand impacts with a re-evaluation of costs six months after the new OPP billing model goes into effect.
Leroux replied, “I am unsure if this was an intentional delay tactic or to purposely align with the upcoming provincial election in 2022, but I can confirm that we do not require any additional time.”
The letter to Jones was also forwarded to Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clarke, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique, and several other high- and mid-ranking political officials.
Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop also received a letter from Mayor Leroux, reminding the local provincial representative of a promise made earlier in the summer “that you would do everything possible to schedule a meeting” with the Solicitor General, and that it has been five months since Dunlop made that promise.
A press release put out by the town of Penetanguishene reaffirmed a call for fair treatment.
“Our municipal council remains extremely committed to this issue and has every intention of holding the province fully accountable to the agreement that’s been in place since the inception of the building in 2000. The Town of Penetanguishene continues to encourage you, as residents, to reach out to both Solicitor General Jones and MPP Jill Dunlop in hopes to have this matter discussed and eliminate the impact on our community,” stated the press release.
A request for comment was sent out by MidlandToday to the office of Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and to Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, but was not returned prior to the publication of this article.
Copies of the full letters to Jones and Dunlop can be located as attachments to the issued press release on the Town of Penetanguishene website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca