Gore Bay supports calls for province to provide COVID-19 funds to Providence Offences Act board of management

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GORE BAY – Gore Bay town council has given its support to the local Provincial Offences (POA) board of management in its request to the provincial government to cover the costs of COVID-19 expenses. Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha also brought forward the town’s letter and motion to the attorney general’s attention. 

“As you know, the POA Gore Bay board of management is quite concerned with the deficit in finances it had due to pandemic expenses,” MPP Mantha told the Recorder last Friday. “They sent me a copy of their resolution, and they can be assured I will be hand-delivering the letter and motion from council to the minister (Attorney General Doug Downey) and asking for financial assistance be provided immediately to address the deficit.”

“We have a letter that will be sent out to the Ministry of the Attorney General, MPP Mike Mantha and all MPPs, all Ontario Provincial Offences offices and all municipal members of Provincial Offences–Gore Bay court services, calling on the government to cover the cost of COVID-19 expenses,” stated Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne at a council meeting last week. 

Mayor Osborne pointed out the Gore Bay POA board operated on a deficit of $22,000 in 2020, and a deficit is again anticipated in 2021, directly attributable to the restrictions imposed by the province as it relates to the province’s response to the COVID-19 situation. 

“This year we (POA board of management) took funds out of our reserves,” said Mayor Osborne, noting that this is not supposed to be allowed by the province.

In the letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, dated February 1, Pam Fogal, manager of Gore Bay Provincial Offences, writes “the Gore Bay Provincial Offences board of management is made up of nine Northern rural municipalities that experience financial constraints on their regular annual budget. At a recent meeting of the Gore Bay Provincial Offences board of management held January 22, 2021, it was noted that there was a substantial deficit for the 2020 year. This deficit was directly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The inability to collect or enforce fines combined with the inability to hold court directly impacted our revenue. The POA deficit will be a further financial burden to our municipalities. For these reasons, the (POA board of management) requests the provincial government to provide financial assistance to offset the POA deficit directly related to loss of revenue and increased operational costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The following motion was adopted that reads, in part, “whereas the POA board of management is concerned with the current financial status of the Provincial Offences Act–Gore Bay Court Services; and whereas Gore Bay (POA) is operating at a deficit in excess of $22,000 which is unprecedented; the deficit is directly attributable to the restrictions imposed by the province as it relates to the province’s response to the COVID-19 situation; the province has had almost one year to find a solution to ensure the safe and continued operation of the provincial offences court system in Ontario; the province transferred the POA operations to municipalities in 2000 with the expectation that it would operate on a profit and not negatively impact the financial status of the participating municipalities; and the provincial government has provided COVID-19 grants to municipalities but not directed any of those monies to POA boards. Therefore, be it resolved that the Gore Bay POA board of management lobby the provincial government to provide COVID-19 support funds to all POA court operations in the province of Ontario. Further, all POA court offices in the province of Ontario be asked to support this motion by sending letters to the premier of Ontario, Ministry of the Attorney General and local MPPs asking for action to provide financial assistance to all municipal POA offices impacted by COVID-19.”