Island municipalities called on to adequately fund operations of Manitoulin POA

NEMI

MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) is in support of a motion passed by council for the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) is calling on the province of Ontario to adequately fund the operation of the Manitoulin Provincial Offences Act (POA) management board and reimburse the local POA’s board of management for current and past deficits.

“When we were looking at the problems that the POA is facing, and the information provided by one of our councillors who is on the POA board (Mike Erskine), I’m worried about the forecasted 2021 deficit being $45,000, our share of which would be $15,000,” said Al MacNevin, NEMI mayor at a MMA  meeting last week. “And the revenues the POA is forecasting seems ambitious.”

Pam Fogal, POA manager had informed the MMA members, “It has been explained we are in a difficult financial situation. This has been taking place for the past couple of years with our revenues having decreased, especially through COVID.  At the time we were doing administration for part one and part two tickets and the  Crown attorney was prosecuting part three tickets and we were being billed $300 per hour by the justice of the peace and $109 per hour by the Crown attorney.”

Ms. Fogal said, as an example of the difficulties the POA is experiencing, “we had 10 matters on the docket yesterday, two were dealt with while the others have been pushed back to April 12. And we have to pay the same rates for the Crown attorney, justice of the peace, and (police) officers’ time for being in court. We are not laying blame, there are not enough staff in Crown attorney’s offices, and the fines and tickets to our (POA) office are down 52 percent from January to February. And for March so far, there have been virtually  no tickets.”

“The main problem that has affected us in 2020-2021 is that with COVID, the POA was not able to enforce collections on fines,” said Ms. Fogal. “So there were no revenues, but we had to pay our regular costs; and we were not allowed to prosecute fines so now we are playing catchup.” As well, the POA has had to follow provincial COVID-19 protocols for court, for example having to purchase plexiglass for the courts to provide for protection of everyone in court (which has taken place in the Gore Bay community hall), internet, and having to provide Zoom (online services).

“Our POA is set up a little different than some others,” said Ms. Fogal. “We are not supplied funding by municipalities, although last year we had to ask municipalities to help us out. Otherwise we have received no support whatsoever.” 

“And if someone has received a ticket and fails to respond in time, in the past this would go to the justice but now it’s going to our court manager, which takes a lot of time,” continued Ms. Fogal. “There are a couple of things we had been doing that we looked at, one being early resolution. We had discussed getting rid of it but found this would be a bad idea.”

“Trials in court amount to an obscene amount of money,” said Ms. Fogal.

“Will the POA be sending invoices to municipalities?” asked MMA chair Ken Noland.

“We have a board meeting March 30,” said Ms. Fogal, who said “we had discussed the projected (current deficit of $15,000 and seeking municipal support to pay these costs).” She pointed  out the POA has already received money from most municipalities on their  share of the costs.

“We have forwarded our motion to FONOM (Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities) for their support, and they need motions from individual municipalities,” said Mr. MacNevin. “We will also be trying to make this a priority for OGRA (Ontario Good Roads Association). We want to get this issue on the agenda for the annual FONOM conference and for a couple of councillors and myself to get a meeting with Minister Sylvia Jones to raise our concerns. It is very important that other municipalities send a motion in support as well to FONOM. This is not just a Manitoulin Island issue, it is provincial.”

Ms. Fogal told the meeting, “it has been suggested that the POA should be given back to the province. I would recommend Manitoulin should be strongly opposed to this. It would affect bylaws and there would be additional police costs with having trials held in Sudbury (and people who receive tickets would have to travel there for trials). Steve Redmond (OPP court manager) does a phenomenal job in getting officers to attend the court dates at the same time, so that there is cost saving from having to go off-Island.”

“The municipalities are required to participate in the POA,” said Mr. Noland. “We don’t want to lose the POA and the services provided. It has been self-sufficient for a long time, 20 of the past 22 years.”

The MMA supported and passed the motion from NEMI. The motion reads, “whereas the Town of Gore Bay on behalf of the board of management known as the District of Manitoulin Provincial Offences Act (POA) management board has entered into an agreement with the Attorney General of Ontario to oversee the administration and prosecution relating to proceedings commenced under Parts 1 and II of the POA Act and the administration of Part III; And whereas the cost of providing the service has outpaced the revenue generated from the services provided; and whereas downward trends occurring in the balance between revenue and expenses stem from ongoing system issues in the tickets and court processes that were becoming evident prior to the advent of COVID-19 issues; and whereas the administration and prosecution of provincial offences is a provincial responsibility that should not be submitted by the municipalities through local property taxation; now therefore be it resolved that the Municipality of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands petitions the province of Ontario to adequately fund the operation the POA and reimburse the board of management for current and past deficits.”

The motion was forwarded to the MMA and the FONOM for its annual conference in May and the town is requesting a delegation with provincial ministers at their meeting and the Ontario Good Roads Association conference which takes place in April.