In early November, a rumour started rumbling around Haliburton County. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) service was talking about turning its Haliburton detachment into a satellite location, replacing the detachment commander with a manager who would answer to the Kawartha Lakes detachment commander in Lindsay, over an hour’s drive south.
Having received no mention of this proposal, Carol Moffat, mayor of Algonquin Highlands at the time, brokered a meeting on November 2 between the four mayors of Haliburton County, their Chief Administrative Officers, and several of the OPP’s top brass, including central region chief superintendent Dwight Peer.
During the meeting, Peer confirmed to the mayors and CAOs that the OPP was considering consolidating the two detachments to improve efficiencies. But he assured those in attendance that the consolidation would not go forward if the municipalities were opposed.
The proposal has since been tabled until a Haliburton Highlands OPP Detachment Board is established.
During a November 9 meeting, Haliburton councillors voiced concerns that the consolidation could reduce the police presence and quality of OPP service offered in Haliburton.
“A lot of people have worked very, very hard for the establishment and retention of policing services in Haliburton County,” said Moffat during the meeting. “Our growth requires more policing services, more robust services and relationships, not less.”
The council voted to ask local townships to reject the proposal and send notice of the rejection to Peer.
Since that meeting, several new mayors and councillors have been sworn into municipal councils under Haliburton County, but the sentiment towards the consolidation remains the same.
“Police presence is a big thing, and we’ve had a string of detachment commanders here over the years. We found the best success we’ve had is when we had one that has some stability and stayed here for a number of years. And now, to have one that’s not going to be a detachment commander, but just a manager…I’m concerned about it,” said Murray Fearrey, mayor of Dysart et al.
“If the boss is not in the general area and doesn’t know what the climate is like, then I think it does affect [the community],” he added.
Fearrey pointed out that due to its size, Haliburton County, which spans over 4,000 square kilometres, is a difficult area to police. The county is made up of four townships with many residences spread throughout rural and remote locations. Plus, the county’s population continues to grow. Between 2016 and 2021, Haliburton’s population increased by 14 per cent to 20,571, according to Statistics Canada.
If the consolidation happens, Fearrey said he’s worried that Haliburton’s detachment may follow the same route as nearby Coboconk. “They said [OPP] they were going to put a manager in there and five years later, or a number of years later, it was boarded up,” he said. “We can’t have that happen. I don’t think we are prepared to give anything up at this point.”
In an email responding to questions about the consolidation, OPP spokesperson Gosia Puzio said that any possible changes the OPP makes would not reduce frontline policing services. It’s unclear, however, whether consolidation would affect the amount each township pays for OPP services. The OPP bills each township a base policing cost that covers crime prevention, proactive policing, officer training, and administrative duties, and then additional fees for reactive calls for service. Last year, the township of Dysart paid $3,336,385 for protective services, which includes policing, fire services, and inspection and control.
“The OPP continuously reviews its operations to adjust to current conditions and seek efficiencies without compromising policing standards in any community it serves. Our focus remains on the delivery of the best possible service to Haliburton County and its municipalities, and we will explore all avenues to do so, which includes command consolidations,” Puzio said.