Manitoulin Provincial Offences Act finances start seeing improvement

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Original deficit to be reduced by nearly $14,000 as the first quarter report for 2022 is released

MANITOULIN—With its finances having improved over the past few weeks, the Manitoulin Provincial Offences Act will be able continue to operate. The Ontario Court of Justice hears virtually all provincial offences matters as well as offences against municipal by-laws. Examples of such cases include Highway Traffic Act violations.

“I would like to announce that we are in a better financial position,” said Pam Fogal, POA manager, at a meeting of the POA board of management last week. “Staff is again able to process ‘fail to responds’ and in the past few weeks have been able to collect fines.”

“That is good news,” stated POA chair Derek Stephens.

Board member Michael Erskine inquired, “Are we on track (for the POA) to stay afloat?”

“Yes, we are,” stated Ms. Fogal.

Michal Lalonde, treasurer for the Town of Gore Bay told the meeting, “Our original budget deficit had been $14,780 and the revised deficit, without municipal funding support, is $37,855. The municipal support will offset some of this deficit, allowing it to be reduced to $23,000. We are through the first quarter of 2022 and the current deficit is below the forecast at this point.”

Mr. Lalonde said it is hoped that the POA revenues will continue to come in while finding ways to keep costs down. “We are proposing to report back after the second quarter and will see where we are then. We are working to find new means for people to pay their fines such as E-transfer and online payment options.”

Ms. Fogal said with the province having opened up, loosening COVID-19 restrictions, the POA has been able to go after fines that have not been paid and courts are now opening for in-person matters.

“We officially have no reserves, so even with the best-cast scenario we will be facing a deficit this year,” said Mr. Erskine. “Are we sure that we will not be in another cash shortage.”

“We will continue to closely monitor the financial situation to ensure the viability of the POA office,” said Mr. Lalonde.

Mr. Stephens questioned, with the lack of ticketing in the past, whether the POA administration sees the trend continuing.

“This is where we get our revenues from,” said Ms. Fogal. “I have had conversations with the OPP and they are recruiting more officers this spring so they anticipate that they will have more officers present on our highways.”

Board member Bryan Barker told the meeting that at a recent Manitoulin Community Police Advisory Committee meeting, Manitoulin OPP detachment commander Inspector Megan Moriarity confirmed that there are new recruits coming. The OPP ticketing issue was also discussed at the CPAC meeting. With the pandemic, OPP contact with the public was reduced a little, and some officers were also deployed to the Ottawa trucker convoy (taking away from their patrols of Manitoulin Island) and there have been many serious criminal matters.

Mr. Barker pointed out that cancelling early resolutions was also brought forward at the CPAC meeting, but Inspector Moriarity advised that this may not be a great option because it  means more court time for officers, costing municipalities more (in wages), and allowing for less time for officers to be on patrol.

Ms. Fogal said POA administration has had further consultation with the stakeholders at the ministry of attorney general and has concluded the early resolution process is more cost effective.

“The impression I got at our last meeting was the early resolution was costing us more,” said Mr. Erskine. “This whole reassessment seems to fly in the face of those facts.”

“Once we looked into all the actual costs of not having early resolution, it was determined that the early resolution process was more cost efficient,” said Ms. Fogal.

Ms. Fogal said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge hit for POAs because of a reduction in fines being issued, and fewer means to enforce collection of those fines. It is hoped that with restrictions lifting, that the POA revenue will improve.