Thursday, December 17, 2020

Little Caledon wants to continue its egregious over-representation in Peel Region

Peel Region is just next door to Toronto. It mainly incorporates the two cities of Mississauga and Brampton, which are basically one big continuous conurbation (and, for that matter, continuous with the city of Toronto next door). But it also extends further north into more rural areas, most of which come under the township of Caledon. Mississauga is currently the sixth largest city in the whole of Canada, and Brampton now ranks as ninth. Caledon is, well, tiny in terms of population, although it has more than half of the total land mass of Peel Region.

There is a huge mismatch between the relatively dense, industrial cityscapes of Mississauga and Brampton, and the bucolic hills of Caledon. But that is always the case where a region or county incorporates both city and countryside, as they often do. Most local councils have the town/country, rich/poor dichotomy to some extent, and it obviously presents challenges in terms of democratic representation and equitable decision-making, especially given that regional councils are responsible for important decisions on shared services like policing, social programs and waste management.

The generally agreed solution, of course, is to allocate councillors according to relative populations, so that each councillor represents more or less the same number of residents. However, populations do change gradually, and representation can become mismatched. Working class and racially-diverse Mississauga and, particularly, Brampton have seen huge increases in population in recent years, tony and exclusive Caledon not so much, so that now each councillor in Brampton represent about 97,000 residents, councillors in Mississauga represent 65,000 people, while councillors in Caledon each represent a paltry 15,000. Caledon councillors therefore have over six times the clout on the regional council as Brampton councillors, and over four times as much as Mississauga councillors.

Given this disparity, Peel Regional Council is to vote on a motion that would allocate two additional councillors to under-represented Brampton and take away two from over-represented Caledon, leaving the total number of councillors the same but equalizing the representation a little. Makes sense, right?

Caledon, of course is not happy, as some of the excessive power it has enjoyed for years will be whittled away (although not entirely erased). What really caught my eye, though, was the claim by Caledon that it should be represented based on area rather than strictly on population. This is one of the most ridiculous claims I have ever heard, and the very fact of someone having uttered it would be grounds, in my mind, for taking away even more than two councillors, and equalizing the population representation even more equitably.

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