Skip to content

Province called 'disrespectful' in corrections facility cost battle

On hook for Central North Correctional Centre costs of $2 million, snubbed Penetanguishene council looks to ‘ramp up the noise’ with support from other facilities
Penetanguishene Mayor Doug Rawson.

One can only imagine a stuffed mailbox and a phone cradle off the hook at Queen’s Park.

For years, Penetanguishene heads had been trying to get hold of the Ministry of the Solicitor General, regarding ceased funding of the Central North Correctional Centre in 2019 when a new provincewide, pricing program roll-out was introduced.

While the province committed to reimbursing the town for policing costs for the CNCC, the agreement was cancelled a year later for all correctional institutions which meant the taxpayers of Penetanguishene would bear the brunt of costs. Creative use of reserves at budget times allowed the town to keep the $2 million burden off its ratepayers since 2022.

Through the previous term of council led by then-mayor Doug Leroux and the current council under Mayor Doug Rawson’s wing, numerous attempts have been made to contact the Solicitor General, even leveraging Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop when applicable. In April 2023, a 10-minute delegation was obtained at the Ontario Good Roads Association conference with Solicitor General Michael Kerzner.

There had been no response throughout those months, until February of this year.

As Rawson and chief administrative officer Jeff Lees were drafting another response to the province, Penetanguishene council received a letter from Kerzner apologizing for the delay in contact. Addressing the reduction of policing costs from $2.4 million in 2015 to just under $2 million in 2024, Kernzer also noted the steady decline in calls for service from the town since the 2019 policy change.

Kerzner’s correspondence stuck firm to its response that calls for service were a responsibility of a correction facility’s local municipality, and offered additional calculations for Penetanguishene’s costs on the CNCC while pointing out provincial investments, ending with a note for exploring future meeting dates.

The response was too little too late, as the matter was addressed in Penetanguishene’s council meeting in March. 

“The response that we’ve got from the Solicitor General is that the town should not be expecting any relief for the policing costs connected with the Central North Correctional Centre,” said Coun. George Vadeboncoeur in the meeting. “That’s really unfortunate.

“Everything we’ve tried to communicate in terms of Penetanguishene’s unique situation has fallen on deaf ears, if I can put it that way. We’ve kind of been lumped in with every other municipality that has a correctional facility, which is really unfortunate,” Vadeboncoeur added. “(Two) million … (is) a significant expense for any municipality, but particularly for one the size of Penetanguishene.”

Rawson explained the SolGen response to council. “We received this before we sent our letter, so this is in response to last summer when the Solicitor General committed to being in our community by last June, and they did not show up nor did they respond to us. We followed up at the end of summer saying, ‘please come’. And this is when we’re getting a response – months later.

“It’s totally disrespectful, and I think we need to be loud and proud now,” Rawson continued. “We’re not going to be lying down and being silent on this. We’re going to ramp up the noise, and we’re going to be looking to the community to help support us with this because the Premier (Doug Ford) and the members of provincial Parliament need to be aware of how this has an effect on our community… and we’re not going to accept it.”

Rawson further noted the town’s drive to have the matter formally resolved.

“This was a big issue at election time,” said Rawson. “One thing I’ve noticed with this government is they don’t like bad publicity, and we’ve seen that with other decisions they’ve turned.”

At the recent council meeting for April, council approved a request for support to be sent to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the county and neighbouring municipalities, and other municipalities hosting provincial facilities.

While stating that “policing costs at a Provincial facility are the single and sole responsibility of the Province of Ontario, and not to be funded by the host municipality”, the motion requested support “in seeking fair, equitable and reasonable treatment to the residents and businesses of host municipalities to Provincial facilities.”

Said Vadeboncoeur at the meeting: “Hopefully it’ll gain some traction and get the attention of the province if we get all the communities that have provincial facilities supporting us. I always try to be optimistic in these types of things, so I’m hopeful we’ll see a positive outcome.”

The Central North Correctional Centre policing costs request for support can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53 when available, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
Read more

Reader Feedback