Penetanguishene mayor urges residents to keep fighting CNCC policing bill

It would be interesting to see who gets more letters from Penetanguishene residents this December: Santa Claus or Ontario’s Solicitor General.

Penetanguishene Mayor Doug Leroux put out a call for a letter-writing campaign by townsfolk to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, hoping that their many voices would assist in gaining more than 10 minutes to talk about a “significant concern” to the community.

A $373,952 bill for Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) policing costs under a new provincial funding model impacted the town’s 2022 draft budget process, taking away from many community projects in an attempt to minimize the potential 3.1 per cent tax increase. Council and finance staff minimized the blow to a 1.9 per cent increase, or $27.79 per every $100,000 of current value assessment.

Leroux spoke to Solicitor General Jones during a 10-minute deputation during the AMO conference this summer, and expressed disappointment and frustration with the talk. Since then, Leroux has sought an in-depth discussion with Jones on the matter, asking MPP Dunlop for help in securing the meeting.

On behalf of Mayor Leroux, Penetanguishene CAO Jeff Lees recently responded to questions put forward by MidlandToday regarding the conflict.

Q: What will it take for the letters to stop being sent to SolGen Jones and MPP Dunlop?

Penetanguishene: “Correspondence and communication from the town to the province will not stop short of a successful resolution for the residents of Penetanguishene.”

Q: Is letter writing the top level of action the town can take in this matter, or could it be escalated further through legal means or some other facet of provincial or federal involvement?

Penetanguishene: “The town continues to explore all options available and will continue to keep the community engaged in this crucial matter as it progresses.”

Q: How effective is the community involvement through the email/petition/outcry campaign to Jones and Dunlop?

Penetanguishene: “We continue to encourage community involvement and participation to MPP Dunlop and Solicitor General Jones and feel all forms of such has been successful and worthwhile to date. Every little bit counts.”

Similar questions were sent out to Dunlop and Jones. As of the publication of this article, the office of Jones has not responded.

Questions posed to Dunlop revolved around the letters sent to Dunlop and Jones in early December.

These included a request for a response to Leroux’ statement that the “continued lack of support and communication” from Dunlop was “frustrating and rather disappointing;” the response to a promise from Dunlop made earlier this year that she would “do everything possible” to help out; and a question of what it would take for Penetanguishene to cease the letter campaign.

A statement from Dunlop was returned in which the MPP noted that she had heard from constituents in Penetanguishene regarding the changes to policing costs for the CNCC.

“While I know that some residents have raised concerns regarding these changes, I understand that this decision was to bring Penetanguishene in line with the other 20-plus communities which play host to provincial correctional facilities and which pay the cost for policing,” wrote Dunlop.

The reply continued with Dunlop assuring her role in addressing the town’s concerns with the Solicitor General. “(Jones) has directed staff at her ministry to re-evaluate the impacts of the billing costs for policing (CNCC) every six months, based on the actual fiscal impacts incurred.”

Dunlop ended the response with gratitude to the 600 CNCC staff and their importance in the community.

The new CNCC policing funding model is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2022. Penetanguishene is expected to adopt the 2022 tax rates this April to calculate the actual overall tax impact once county and provincial tax rates are received.

The 2022 budget is available through hard copies upon request as well as on the Town of Penetanguishene website.

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