Kenora, Pickle Lake, and Sioux Lookout have come together to form a coalition to address their significantly higher police costs in their respective communities.

Since 2015, taxpayers in these three communities have collectively paid $4 million more a year, than the average cost in other communities for the use of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). They feel the additional money put into the OPP could be invested into critical infrastructure projects such as shelters, housing, roads, bridges, and other community needs.

The communities want to take a closer look at the cost-formula system, which is what municipalities use to determine the overall cost of the OPP and the local services it delivers. The formula also adds in different costs for each municipality based on the number of calls for police services, overtime, and other items such as prisoner transportation and security for jails and courthouses, plus the cost of holding people in detention cells.

“The formula is based on a cost per property, while our three municipalities serve a population ten times the size of our tax base,” states Mayor Daniel Reynard, City of Kenora. “We are each hubs for dozens of northern and remote communities, and each other. Our municipalities act as regional resource centres for healthcare, pharmacy, education, legal, and transportation services for First Nations peoples living in a geographical area larger than Germany.”

The formula has resulted in per property costs of $832 in Kenora, $934 in Sioux Lookout, and $950 in Pickle Lake. By comparison, the median cost for OPP services in Ontario is $300 per property. While Pickle Lake and Sioux Lookout receive some discounts, there is no guarantee that these will be extended.

“If the Government of Ontario fails to address this situation, we will have to take serious action,” said Pickle Lake Mayor, Dwight Monck. “The ability of our property owners to pay higher taxes has reached the breaking point. If our policing costs rise, we may have to further reduce other services to the residents, businesses, and organizations who call our communities home.”

Kenora, Sioux Lookout, and Pickle Lake represent less than one per cent of the total number of properties the OPP serves, but make up over four per cent of the total call-for-service hours, therefore having the highest combined policing costs of all communities that use the OPP.

The Kenora OPP’s costs are listed at $6,663,375 + $77,724 for 2022, representing a 4.4 per cent – or $283,521 – increase over last year’s cost of $6,379,854 + $91,636.

Councillors say they’ve been working with and meeting with provincial ministers to reduce their policing costs over the last six years, and the current OPP billing model isn’t sufficient.

“For our hub-based municipalities, the province’s OPP cost-formula clearly hasn’t worked,” said Doug Lawrance, mayor of Sioux Lookout. “It is one of the most important problems we face. It’s also the easiest to solve if the provincial government is willing to work with us. Sioux Lookout receives a partial discount on its bill and Pickle Lake, a discount on only its calls for service and overtime costs.”

They say the goal of this coalition is to work with the province to seek a solution that is fair to municipal taxpayers and financially sustainable. They hope with the upcoming provincial election, each candidate will include the coalition's concerns in their campaign platform.