If you’re going to be treated like a big boy, you might as well pull on your big boy pants.
It’s some shrewd advice Town of Osoyoos Council should consider as it deals with increasing policing costs in the wake of its graduation to the 5,000-plus club earlier this year.
With its population cresting 5,000 people in the 2016 national census, Osoyoos is now responsible for 70 percent of its policing costs. Initially, it was told an agreement needed to be in place by April 1 to provide for that new obligation; yesterday a reprieve was announced, the Town allowed some time to negotiate an amended agreement with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
But Council has another option — one that deals neatly with expressed concerns about inequalities that seem to be building between the towns of Osoyoos and Oliver.
Specifically, Counc. Mike Campol wondered how businesses and families relocating to the South Okanagan might view the two communities, our northern neighbour being home to multiple elementary schools, a shiny new and under-utilized high school, a hospital with an emergency room and a regional provincial services centre while the larger, more sophisticated Town of Osoyoos has but one elementary school, a secondary school still subject to arbitrary closing, no hospital and no provincial government offices.
What we do have, Counc. Campol rightfully observed, is likely to be increased taxes to pay for policing services that, if the RCMP contract is amended and renewed, are no different than those delivered in Oliver for much less money.
This is where we pull up our big boy pants.
Rather than looking at the potential drawbacks bursting the 5,000 bubble has brought to the community, perhaps we should be looking at opportunity — like using our new status to set ourselves apart from our neighbour — can we just say it, rival — to the north.
Rather than appear diminished in the eyes of those who would compare Osoyoos and Oliver, the Town has opportunity to present itself as something just a little bigger, a little more mature.
We have city status now: we could be the Resort City of Osoyoos.
And if we’re bold enough to think we could be a city, could we not be brave enough to think we could provide for our own policing?
That’s one option open to Council as it ponders its new policing costs: delivering its own law enforcement within the confines of its municipal boundaries.
Before the naysayers suggest that’s cost-prohibitive — or at least fiscally irresponsible — consider this: in the United States more than 12,000 local police departments in the United States employed at least one full-time officer or the equivalent in part-time officers; nearly all (98%) were operated by municipal governments.
The Town could put the province and RCMP on notice that it will be providing for its own police force then use the interim period it now has secured to hire a Chief of Police, an officer or two, and work though the provincial Policing Act to ensure it meets standards required of local law enforcement agencies.
I can’t imagine it would be difficult to lure law enforcement folk to Osoyoos — especially if they knew they were dropping the yoke of the federal force and stepping into a situation where they would have license within the parameters of the Policing Act to do things their way.
Local RCMP already fill an increased need for summer patrols with the promise of an Osoyoos getaway.
And let’s be honest: how difficult will it be to provide day-to-day policing services within the confines of the community, unencumbered by regional responsibilities and patrols — especially with bylaw officers who could be engaged in providing low-level policing services (like ticketing)?
And how much more control would we have locally if we were to harness that police force and have it do the bidding of a local police commission?
It’s a decisive step forward that would tell the world Osoyoos is no longer a sleepy retirement/vacation community. It would tweak the Osoyoos brand, building on the notoriety we mustered last year when the community umbered up and saved its secondary school.
Osoyoos could be the place that thinks outside the box, does things its own way, is unique.
Who wouldn’t take a little bit of pride in living in such a community? And imagine the creative action-oriented thinkers who would want to relocate here to be part of what we’re building.
Want to differentiate our community from the Town of Oliver? Put a name to it: The Resort City of Osoyoos.
Then ask yourself: wouldn’t that new big-boy moniker look great on the side of a police car?