Friday, May 19, 2023

Ford has his reasons dissolving Region of Peel

The Ford government has committed to dissolving the Region of Peel, the area just to the west of Toronto that comprises the two large cities of Mississauga and Brampton and the scattered and largely rural township of Caledon. Under the plan, all three would become "single-tier municipalities" by 1st January 2025, whether they like it or not.

Mississauga (Ontario's third-largest city after Toronto and Ottawa) has been agitating for years to be independent of the Region, arguing that it feels unduly constrained and that it contributes disproportionately to Peel's coffers. Neither fast-growing Brampton (Ontario's fourth city) nor sleepy little Caledon have ever had any delusions of grandeur of this kind, as far as I am aware. In fact, Caledon's mayor is strongly opposed to the idea, saying that she feels like the child in the angry divorce of Mississauga and Brampton. So, this seems to be a provincial gift to 'Sauga, more than anything else. Maybe Ford sees it as a vote-winning policy, which knows?

Ontario's stated justification for the move is to give the municipalities "the tools and autonomy they need to deliver on local priorities, including meeting the ambitious housing pledges they have agreed to". It's not at all clear to me how cutting them loose from Peel is going to help them in that respect, although Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark has been up-front in admitting that the upgraded municipalities would be candidates for the controversial and anti-democratic "strong mayor" powers that this Conservative government espouses. He has also said that other regions in southern Ontario may follows including York, Durham, Halton, Niagara, Waterloo and Simcoe.

The logistical challenges are formidable, though. The municipalities within Peel share many services, including some roads, transit, housing, public health, garbage collection, social services, policing and water. Each municipality would have to create its own infrastructure to offer these services to its residents, likely a long and costly process (no-one really knows how costly). Mississauga and Brampton are already arguing about who owes whom for past developments within each other's borders (although why that ever even happened is beyond me). And what will happen to the 5,000-odd full-time employees of the Region of Peel is anyone's guess.

The legal, administrative and physical difficulties involved will be prodigious, and I just don't see the business case for such a split. But the Ford government does very little that does not support their ideological and self-preservation agenda, so you have to know that, behind any move the government instigates, there us a self-serving rationale.

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