'Deeply disappointed:' Mississauga mayor speaks out amid reports Ford government is reconsidering Peel split
Published Wednesday, December 6, 2023 2:39PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 6, 2023 5:25PM EST
The mayor of Mississauga has stressed that dissolving Peel Region is the right thing to do and urged the Doug Ford government to provide clarity as soon as possible amid multiple media reports that the province is reconsidering its decision.
"It goes without saying if this is truly the direction the province is headed in, I'm deeply disappointed and frankly angry for the waste of time and resources," Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
"What happens next is up to the premier. I ask that he do the right thing, not only for taxpayers, but for (former Mississauga mayor) Hazel McCallion and for all the staff and residents who are living in uncertainty. He owes it to Mississauga residents, businesses and taxpayers."
During her 36 years as mayor, McCallion strongly advocated for Mississauga to separate from Peel Region, a cause Crombie continued when she took over.
Wednesday's news conference was held a day after several media outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported that the Ford government is re-evaluating its decision to break up the region.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra said he had not made any decisions on "potential" dissolution.
“We're doing a lot of due diligence to see how it would be done, what the cost would be, but I've made no decision on that yet,” Calandra said.
Last June, the government passed Bill 112 or the Hazel McCallion Act, paving the way for the breakup of Peel Region by 2025 and the independence of the municipalities of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. A month later, the government named the members of the transition board tasked to oversee the process.
Crombie said reversing the legislation would be tough for Premier Doug Ford and local MPPs to explain to residents.
"It will also be a difficult one to document in our history books. I want to be clear: independence is about reaching a deal that's fair and equitable for all of our taxpayers. Dissolving Peel Region and eliminating an additional layer of government will allow all of us – Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon - to become more efficient, reduce confusion amongst residents, streamline the delivery of services, and ultimately save residents and businesses time and money," the mayor said.
"We are confident it's the right thing to do."
The latest row in the dissolution saga was prompted by the City of Brampton coming out last week with updated "independent data" from Deloitte that it said found the dissolution would lead to significant financial impact to taxpayers, including a one-time tax increase of 38 per cent across the three municipalities. When CP24 asked for the full report, a city representative only provided a table showing figures of the total 10-year impact of the separation.
Brampton also claimed that the break up could risk essential and critical emergency services – a sentiment echoed by the head of Peel Region's paramedic union.
Mayor Patrick Brown has said the provincial government should revisit the dissolution and that his city never asked for Peel to be broken up but for redundancy at the regional level to be removed.
Crombie slammed the report from Brampton and called on Brown to release it to the public so it could be independently reviewed. She noted the initial 2019 report was dismissed by regional officials because of "dubious methodology" and "false, outrageous assumptions" that did not look at all dissolution scenarios and that it was created to justify the existence of Peel Region.
"Updating the Deloitte Report on the same foundations will only produce the same skewed results. The numbers couldn't be validated then, and they can't be validated today," Crombie said.
The Mississauga mayor then questioned why Brown was afraid to lead an independent Brampton.
"Is he not ready to lead an independent city? Does he not have a vision?" Crombie asked.
She then urged Premier Ford and Minister Calandra not to make rash decisions based on the "faulty" figures in the report. Crombie added that the transition board should continue working to ensure all three municipalities will be prepared by 2025 if the dissolution moves ahead.
"Taxpayers expect us to make transparent, evidence based decisions. That's how we govern here in Mississauga. And that's what our taxpayers and the public elected us to do," the mayor said.
"It's how the Hazel McCallion ran things here. She did her homework and made decisions based on evidence. As someone who considers Hazel a mentor, I'd expect the premier to do the same."
With files from The Canadian Press