Desperate for another draw



What was arguably the most pertinent comment arising from city council's regional policing debate last night came from Councillor Mary Jean McFall.

While admitting to some misgivings about the costs of conducting a regional policing study, the first-term councillor said having more than one group of people crunching numbers on policing costs will at least ensure everyone will “keep their pencil as sharp as possible.”

The truth is there's little hope among the majority of councillors who backed the motion that Brockville's three neighbours, Prescott, Augusta and Elizabethtown-Kitley, will end up forming a regional police service with the city.

There's even less hope two of those three municipalities will agree to a “joint board” police service with Brockville, given the political pitfalls history has shown to exist in such a venture.

What we have here, rather, is a burning desire – one might call it desperation – for something, anything, to keep the Ontario Provincial Police on its toes as it delivers Brockville a costing.

Never mind that the OPP continues to insist it does not seek out or compete for municipal contracts; competition is always a good thing.

Councillor Jeff Earle made the most compelling case for competition. Regardless of what the OPP insists, Earle tells us, from the city's point of view this costing is about the city potentially buying a service.

When it comes to buying services, competition is the natural template.

Earle asked colleagues to imagine the city is putting out a tender for asphalt or fuel oil.

Now imagine there is only one company bidding, and further, imagine that company has been guaranteed by the province that it can charge the most for its product in 2014.

There you have the “single-bidder” OPP option, says Earle. Not exactly a warm fuzzy.

Faced with this scenario, it's nor surprising most councillors, to use another Earle metaphor, want to see more cards on the table.

Whether the regional policing card proves a trump card in this Orillia Hold 'Em, or as useless as an unwanted three of diamonds remains to be seen.

To paraphrase the prevailing mood last night: there's no harm in at least trying to shuffle the deck.