Judge for yourself
By Chad Ingram
Published March 30, 2017
It sometimes feels like the provincial government is trying to pinch communities north of Highway 7 out of existence.
It would be much easier, after all, not having to provide resources for all those tiny towns with the nerve to exist more than an hour’s drive from the GTA.
Last week, county council received notification that provincial offences and small claims court proceedings that take place in Minden once a month will be moved to Lindsay for a year beginning in July.
The reason for this is that the region’s senior justice of the peace has decided to centralize court operations, since the province is not hiring sufficient numbers of justices of the peace. The province’s Central East region has 11 justice of the peace vacancies and three others off on long-term disability. However, according the Ontario courts website, “applications for justice of the peace positions are no longer accepted on an ongoing basis.”
Huh. How do you like that?
I sent an email to the Ministry of the Attorney General asking why the province was not hiring more justices of the peace and four days later, as I write this, I’ve still not received a response from the ministry’s communication people.
The answer seems pretty obvious in a province with $300 billion in debt.
Indeed, local politicians are not convinced the transfer of proceedings to Lindsay will be temporary.
“Nobody believes that,” Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt said last week.
“I’m constrained by the decorum of this chamber to limit myself to language that’s appropriate,” was how Minden Hills Reeve and County Warden Brent Devolin sized up the situation.
The decision will have negative ramifications for the community. At the risk of coming across brash or judgemental, at least some of the people who attend court in Minden do not possess the means to get themselves to Lindsay. This, as politicians pointed out, will likely mean those people will have to be transported to Lindsay by the OPP, which will likely increase the already audacious OPP bills the county’s townships are faced with.
It’s completely unfair that the province’s inability, or refusal, to hire more justices of the peace should fall into the laps of the county’s taxpayers.
Municipalities are under increasingly abundant directives from the province all the time – ever-more-costly OPP bills, downloading of responsibilities such as septic tank inspections, asset management plans, planning controls, etc., etc., etc. - while the province continually seeks to reduce the services it provides.
Many residents will recall the recent victory where, after great outcry and the signing of petitions tabled by MPP Laurie Scott in Queen’s Park, the province decided to keep the Minden Service Ontario office open, after it announced plans to close it last year.
It seems we have to fight continually just to maintain services in the county. Last year it was Service Ontario. This year it’s the courthouse. What comes next?