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Upcoming AMO conference might be town's chance to talk superjail costs with province

Policing costs related to Central North Correctional Centre 'should be a provincial responsibility,' says Penetanguishene councillor
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The Town of Penetanguishene is looking to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) virtual conference in mid-August as its chance to book time with elusive Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

But will 10 minutes be enough?

“I must reiterate that our fight with the Solicitor General’s department  vis-à-vis costing on CNCC (Central North Correctional Centre)  is not done,” Penetanguishene Mayor Doug Leroux said during a recent committee of the whole meeting.

The town in northern Simcoe County has been struggling to get in contact with government officials over the past few months regarding a mandatory police services billing model being rolled out to municipalities across the province, which could impact Penetanguishene residents up to $400,000 annually in taxes.

Previously, both Leroux and CAO Jeff Lees sent several pieces of correspondences to Solicitor General Jones, as well as Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, to discuss the burden being imposed upon the town’s tax base by the provincial government.

Dunlop met virtually with Leroux and Lees on June 29, after weeks of non-communication herself with the town, to which the town emphasized the severity and importance of the issue while stressing for a meeting with Jones. They were assured by Dunlop that the issue would be front and centre with the ministry and that she would be keeping a possible meeting between the town and Jones on her radar.

The town's last letter was sent to Jones on July 6, reinforcing the burden to the municipality with a request to meet to discuss the matter.

Coun. George Vadeboncoeur praised the efforts of town council and staff in their attempts to gain resolution from the provincial government.

“We’re still in a fight here with respect to how policing costs at the CNCC are allocated,” he said.

“I voted against what Coun. LaRose proposed because I didn’t agree with the tactic, but I do agree that from the municipality’s standpoint, I think it’s a matter of equity," Vadeboncoeur added. "I don’t think it should be the municipal property tax base that pays for policing at this institution. It should be provincial sales tax or provincial income tax. It should be a provincial responsibility.”

Vadeboncoeur asked Lees if the municipality would be asking for a delegation at the AMO virtual conference, to be held Aug. 15-18, which Lees did confirm.

Lees stated: “Our ask of MPP Dunlop was to have an opportunity (to speak with Jones) outside of the AMO conference. We don’t believe that the 10-minute opportunity at AMO will be quite as effective as perhaps a standalone meeting outside of the AMO conference.”

According to the AMO website, delegation meetings allow an opportunity for members of municipal councils to discuss local issues with government ministers and officials.