A member of the Norfolk Police Services Board riled representatives of Norfolk council by suggesting the county isn’t doing enough to curb illegal, disruptive cannabis production in the local area.
On June 23, civilian appointee George Santos of Simcoe said Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman and Mayor Kristal Chopp could pay a price for this if they stand for re-election in 2022.
Santos’s remarks confused some PSB members because he prefaced this observation by saying the county and Norfolk OPP “are doing the best they can.” He also started the conversation by assigning blame for the county’s cannabis problems to Health Canada and its lax oversight of operations with federal grow permits.
However, Santos went on to say that some in Waterford-area Ward 7 are “living in fear” over what they suspect is criminal activity in the agricultural zone. He warned council’s representatives that this might have implications at the ballot box in 2022.
“I know it’s an election year next year municipally,” Santos said. “So I make it very clear to our Coun. Huffman and Mayor Chopp that this is something that needs to be dealt with. It’s important and it’s urgent.
“If you want to be re-elected, I suggest you take this seriously.”
At this point, Huffman called a point-of-privilege, which, under municipal procedure, suspends the matter at hand to deal with a perceived sleight or unfair remark.
“This isn’t called for,” Huffman interjected. “Absolutely uncalled for.
“This is an issue I took seriously prior to my election. This is on the minds of everybody. You state that bylaw (enforcement) and the county and the local OPP are doing the best they can. Where the ball has been dropped is with the federal government in terms of Health Canada (in) that we haven’t had any inspectors down here.”
For her part, Chopp added she has spoken out about cannabis-cultivation abuses at every municipal conference she has attended. Chopp said she has spoken personally to Ontario’s Attorney-General about what can be done about this problem at the provincial level.
“There are things the province can do through the College of Physicians for physicians who are over-prescribing for individuals who are actually receiving these gigantic, 500-plant prescriptions,” Chopp said.
Chopp added other municipalities study Norfolk’s zoning requirements as a model for their own communities. The county, she said, has also led the way with successful prosecutions of legal grow operations that are insensitive to the odour and light-pollution concerns of their neighbours.
“I’d put the question back to you,” Chopp said to Santos. “What should Norfolk County be doing differently? If we had the solution we’d be able to eradicate the problem across the province and the country.
“So I’m not sure what you feel we’re not doing here in Norfolk County. Personally, I think I’ve gone above and beyond and I feel Coun. Huffman has gone above and beyond as well.”
PSB chair Dennis Travale and civilian appointee Willy VanHeugten agreed that Santos’ remarks were not constructive and could’ve been stated more precisely.
“I’m certainly with Coun. Huffman on this,” VanHeugten said. “This is not the way we should be doing things here. There’s lots of frustration on this issue and I get it. This whole thing was created by an absolute mess from the federal government in the first place. It’s a mess.”
The discussion ended with the PSB agreeing to share its concerns in a letter to federal health minister Patti Hadju along with in-depth reports on the cannabis problem in Norfolk from bylaw supervisor Jim Millson.