Regional governance in Ontario is not well understood by voters. Here in Brampton, the typical resident would be stressed to name their municipal representative let alone the difference between their “City” councillor and their “Regional” councillor. This might explain why the debate at the Region of Peel Council between Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon about separation, representation and funding levels is not getting the attention that it deserves. The three mayors in Peel Region (Bonnie Crombie, Linda Jeffrey and Allan Thompson) are jockeying for position and staking their claims on behalf of their residents. Do we really have an issue in Peel?
First for a brief background. Peel Region in Ontario, Canada is named after 19th century British Prime Minister Robert Peel. The Region was formed in 1974 by the Ontario Provincial Government headed then by Premiere Bill Davis, a native Bramptonian. The Region is comprised of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon and has a population in 2016 that exceeds 1.4 million, making it the 2nd largest municipality in the province behind Toronto. Mississauga has grown to be Canada’s 6th largest city and Brampton is one of the fastest growing city. Caledon on the other hand has a population of just over 60,000 people which is about the same as the population of one of Mississauga’s 11 wards. Regional services like garbage collection and policing is disproportionately funded by Mississauga. However, Mayor Jeffrey says that Brampton has disproportionately funded Mississauga’s development over the past four decades.
The Region of Peel Council is chaired by Frank Dale who was most recently a Mississauga City Councillor. The position of Chair is also contentious because residents do not elect this representative. Rather, the Chair is voted on by sitting members of the regional council. Brampton representatives did have the opportunity to vote in Brampton native John Sanderson as chair for this term. Unfortunately, he did not get the support from all of Brampton’s representatives including Mayor Linda Jeffrey. Further, the final vote was a tie with Frank Dale being allowed to vote for himself and break the tie.
To many, regional governance is a bureaucratic level of government that is no longer effective. To others, the system of governance is working well and has created a thriving place for people to live, work and play. Mayor Bonnie Crombie in Mississauga has taken her lead from Hazel McCallion and is advocating that her city leave the Region to have full control of their destiny and finances. Caledon and Brampton wants no part of that. An attempt to reshuffle the number of seats in Regional council to make it a fairer representation of the demographics by giving Mississauga and Brampton 4 additional seats each was defeated recently by Mississauga. Demographically, what should have happened is a reduction in seats for Caledon from 5 to 1, and an increase of 4 seats for Brampton from 7 to 11.
One option other than separation that doesn’t get discussed is amalgamation. Many services are already provided at a regional scale (police, garbage, public health, some roads). Other services such as Fire and Emergency services could also be provided regionally. But when was the last time we saw politicians voting for a reduction in bureaucracy and the loss of their job?
This saga will certainly continue for many years. Stay tuned.