OPP costs put squeeze on rural Ontario

Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur. (Darren Brown/QMI Agency)

Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur. (Darren Brown/QMI Agency)

Christina Blizzard, Queen's Park Columnist

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

TORONTO -- Irate rural homeowners are blaming soaring OPP salaries for massive hikes in their property taxes.

Paul Newby owns a cottage in Algonquin Highlands. He says policing costs for the municipality are going from $3.3 million a year to $8.5 million in 2015 -- with no increase in service.

It's an area that doesn't have a strong commercial and industrial tax base to support policing -- so homeowners are getting hit hard. It's particularly tough for cottagers, who don't use their second homes year-round and who now resent getting slammed with extra costs to pay for the cops' pay hike.

Newby's on a lake that has around 200 cottages and a few year-round houses. He estimates the population is 65% seasonal.

"There's no one around in the winter -- but they're treated like a house that can be used all year," he said.

"My taxes are $1,100 a year," he told me.

"They're going to go up $458 -- 36% -- in one year," he said.

Part of the problem, Newby says, is the way the new OPP funding model is counting households. Previously, seasonal residences weren't included. Now they are, which he says is unfair because they're not using police services year-round.

"If you look at municipal operating costs, they've only increased 4.9%, but the cost of emergency services have gone up 6.3%," Newby said.

A 2012 report by the provincial auditor general noted that OPP expenditures have, "clearly increased at a much faster pace than inflation, even though crime rates and serious motor vehicle accidents are in a trend of long-term decline."

The report noted also that OPP officers are among the highest paid in the country, with better benefits than other civil servants.

Janet Duffield has a year-round home on Kenissis Lake in Haliburton.

She says tax hikes in her area are anywhere between 20-36%.

"Right now, we're paying $4,100 a year in taxes. They're talking about an increase on average of anything from $300-$450 a year, based on property values," she said.


Videos

Photos