StrategyCorp March Newsletter: Politics, Policy, & Public Safety

Diving into what today’s news means for public policy, our clients, and our worldSubscribe now.

Community safety is emerging as a political priority across the country. Recent Angus Reid polling ranks public safety among the top concerns, and in British Columbia and Ontario it’s even out-polling education and the economy.

The disturbing frequency of auto thefts, the increasing – and increasing visibility of – homelessness and addictions, and the growing conflict in public protests are shifting the perceptions of how safe people feel in their communities.

What We’re Tracking


Car thefts are the surprising and alarming new trend in criminal activity. Vehicles are being stolen from driveways as people sleep and violent carjackings, including the widely publicized experience of NHL star Mitch Marner, are amplifying fears.

Thefts have become high-tech with criminals using sophisticated devices to break into parked vehicles. Many are perplexed at the lack of progress in cracking car theft rings. Why aren’t geotracking devices proving more effective in tracing stolen vehicles before they are shipped overseas?

The story on auto thefts in Canada continues to attract attention after the Toronto Police released statistics that show more than 12,000 vehicles were stolen in the City of Toronto last year – a staggering one auto theft every 40 minutes.

Last month, the rising concern over the soaring rates of auto thefts spurred the federal government to host a national summit dedicated to combatting the largely urban issue.

The government’s resulting plan from the summit included an additional $28 million for the Canada Border Services Agency to intensify its stolen-vehicle investigations, as the bulk of stolen vehicles are shipped out of the country.

This new funding comes on the heels of a $121-million investment announced earlier this year aimed at preventing gun and gang violence in Ontario, where auto theft insurance claims topped $700 million in 2022. And the 2024 Ontario budget earmarked $49 million over three years to help police chase down car thieves.


Public safety and public health are butting heads in the ongoing debate about how to address homelessness, addiction, and mental health challenges. Communitieshealth care advocates, and police are trying to manage the issue with limited resources and differing mandates. However, they all agree there’s a desperate need for more funding and attention from their provincial governments. Ontario appears to be listening: this week’s budget included almost $400 million over three years for improving mental health and addictions services.

  • DIVERSION – PROBLEM OR DISTRACTION? Safer supply programs are based on the premise that people addicted to unregulated, and often deadly, street drugs like fentanyl should be prescribed safer alternatives like opioid hydromorphone to prevent deadly overdoses. In the first six months of last year, 22 people died of overdoses every day, due to the increasing toxicity of the drug supply. But these federally sponsored programs have become controversial in some circles. Experience has shown that safer supply is sometimes diverted back onto the streets and sold for stronger street drugs. On the other hand, proponents argue there is evidence that safer supply works to help some people manage their addictions.
  • BC BUST HEIGHTENS TENSIONS: A high-profile drug seizure in British Columbia earlier this month poured fuel on the fire after the RCMP seized thousands of prescription pills and described them as having been diverted from safer supply problems, possibly into the hands of organized crime. Days later, provincial officials – including a top RMCP officer – countered that only a “minority” of those drugs were safe-supply prescriptions.
  • FUNDING RENEWAL: Since 2020, the federal government has funded about 30 safer supply sites in four provinces. Growing tensions over harm reduction strategies like safer supply and supervised consumption sites comes just as the federal funding for approximately 20 currently operating safe supply programs is set to expire this month.

With these challenges in mind, the path forward for government is not clear. As safer supply programs continue to be a point of contention within political circles and in many cases, within the very neighborhoods in which they operate, better data and evidence is needed to understand whether these programs deliver the type of outcomes they were intending for, and if not, what better solutions might exist for vulnerable community members.


It’s taken five years, but Ontario’s Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019 is set to take effect on April 1st. Rules governing the roles and responsibilities of police services and their officers is a sensitive subject, which is one reason the reform process took almost 10 years to complete.

One significant change will be the ability of chiefs of police to suspend officers without pay in some very specific circumstances, a measure long called for by chiefs and the public, though one that might fall short of expectations due to yet-to-be defined circumstances of what constitutes a “serious offence.”

And of particular interest to municipal councils who ultimately approve local police budgets, the Act sets updated standards for the “adequate and effective policing” that local forces are directed to provide the public, from crime prevention and law enforcement, to maintaining public peace and assisting victims of crime. How much “adequate and effective policing” will cost is expected to be a matter of debate in several municipalities when the draft police services budgets for fiscal 2025 start to roll-in later this year.


With emotions running high and pressing global issues spilling out to the streets of Canada’s urban areas, there has been a renewed focus by police forces, elected officials, and the media on protests and the reasonable limits of peaceful assembly and free speech.

Police forces have been criticized for their response – or in some cases lack thereof – to protests over the ongoing war in Gaza, which represents a continuation of a broader shift in police tactics for large protests where a ‘hands-off’ approach involving negotiations is preferred over the sometimes-heavy-handed tactics of the past. Governments at all levels have also reacted to recent events with cause for concern, given the widely publicized increase in the rates of antisemitism and Islamophobia experienced across Canada.

  • SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? In mid-March, the Mayor of Vaughan proposed a new bylaw that would prohibit protests within 100 metres of places of worship, schools, child-care facilities, and hospitals. This was in response to highly charged protests where charges were laid, but the proposal has been met with mixed reaction with some concerned about the impact on freedom of expression.

It’s almost time for municipalities to begin reviewing their Community Safety and Well-Being (CSWB) Plans. Past SCI surveys of Chief Administrative Officers and Police Service Board Chairs suggest a mixed view.

Look out for our 2024 Police Chief Survey by subscribing to our newsletter for the update!

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