Equalization payment proposal should be expanded beyond OPP, says Billings council

KAGAWONG—With the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) looking at an equalized billing payment system in place for all municipalities in the province, Billings council wants this to be expanded to include hydro and all fuel-gas payments as well.

“Right now, across the province the OPP is looking at equalization billing payments for all 324 municipalities in Ontario,” said Brian Parker, a Billings Township councillor at a meeting Monday. “They say they are looking at this equalization system for OPP billing to balance and make things fairer in total for everyone, and if the province is doing this equalization for the OPP, why can’t the same be done for hydro and all fuel costs?”

“If the province wants to open the cauldron, maybe we could get the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to request the province look at equalization billing for the police, hydro, gas prices and fuel prices,” stated Mr. Parker. “I know in the case of Hydro One they charge $1 in delivery charges for every dollar of hydro I use, while in Burlington I was talking to someone the other day and they pay $100 per month total for hydro. This is what I pay just in delivery charges.”

“The province should be able to do this for hydro and fuel costs as well,” said Mr. Parker. “People in the 416, 613 and 519 (area code) areas are paying a lot less in costs for fuel and hydro than we are in the 705 and 807 areas. There is a real misbalance in costs across the province. There shouldn’t be, there is no difference, for example, in liquor costs––you can buy the same bottle of booze in the North as the south at the same price.”

“Where there are not bigger voter numbers in the North, we are having to pay more,” said Mr. Parker. “Our fuel pump prices can go up 20 cents per litre overnight.”

“If the province wants to open this all up, why can’t they do it for hydro and fuel and gas as well?” asked Mr. Parker.

Councillor Gerry Mack stated, “what you are basically asking is for the south to subsidize the North. It is like what is happening now with the North subsidizing southern Ontario.”

Mayor Austin Hunt said if council is in favour of Mr. Parker’s suggestion, “we would have to get a proposal-letter in, maybe starting with the MMA (Manitoulin Municipal Association) and it would be better to take to FONOM (Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities) at its annual general meeting for consideration.”

“You are right in saying that the south does control the costs in the province, it’s where the most people in the province live,” said Mayor Hunt. He pointed out that in Billings’ case, “we in Billings have more houses than we have people that live here (year-round). We have 770 houses and 550 (permanent) residents.”

“I’m asking council to consider my suggestion and have this go to the MMA and push from there,” said Mr. Parker. “It can’t hurt and as we all know we’re all paying more than the south.”

“We don’t have industry on the Island to continue to pay these higher costs,” said Mr. Parker. “I am proposing that we have (township clerk Kathy McDonald) draft a letter to send to the MMA to consider requesting the province to open the equalization payments to include hydro and fuel costs and have this go on to FONOM for consideration.”

Council was in favour of Mr. Parker’s proposal and will forward a letter to the MMA for its consideration of support.