Picking a new chair will be one of the first orders of business on Dec. 6, when a reconstituted Peel Region Council gathers for the first time since the municipal election.
Residents urging Jeffrey to stand for regional chair
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer and Joel Wittnebel

Residents urging Jeffrey to stand for regional chair


In 10 days the newly elected Peel Region Council will choose its new leader. The race, for the most part, remains wide open, although Linda Jeffrey has been the focus of increased speculation about possible candidates.

The departing Brampton mayor continues to play her cards close to the chest. “The Mayor has not made any decision with respect to the Peel Region Chair position,” spokesperson Marcel Wieder wrote in an emailed response to The Pointer. “She has been approached by a number of people who believe she could lead the Region over the next four years but she has not made a final decision.”

Another familiar name who appears ready to stand for the position is former Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney. The four-term Liberal member of provincial parliament between 2003 and 2018 was ousted in the Ontario election in June, but has been consistent about his desire to continue to serve the region.

Delaney had registered as a candidate for Peel Region chair long before the position, scheduled to be chosen by voters for the first time, was axed from the municipal ballot by Premier Doug Ford. However, in an Aug. 1 post on his personal website, Delaney made his intentions clear.

“Whether the position is filled by election or appointment, I remain committed to being a candidate for the position of Chair of Peel Region,” he wrote. “After 15 years in the Ontario Legislature, I know how programs and legislation that affect municipalities are created. I have learned how to deal effectively with the Province, and work with precisely the key stakeholders affected by the Region of Peel.”

Charles Sousa, another former Liberal MPP and finance minister, who lost his own three-term seat (in the former riding of Mississauga South) in June, has also been rumoured for the job, though he has made no public statements on the matter.

Deciding who will fill the pivotal role of regional chair will be one of the first orders of business on Dec. 6, when councillors are sworn in at the Peel Region Council chambers. The vote will have the impact of cementing the power dynamic between Mississauga and Brampton, which have been at odds over the very future of the region for some time. As Peel’s largest municipality, Mississauga holds 12 votes at the 25-person regional council table, which may make garnering the 13 votes necessary to win the job easier for a Mississauga candidate than one from Brampton, which holds seven seats, or Caledon, with five.

 

“Whether the position is filled by election or appointment, I remain committed to being a candidate for the position of Chair of Peel Region.”

Former Mississauga MPP Bob Delaney 


 

For context, the region has had four chairs over the 44 years since its creation under the premiership of Brampton native Bill Davis, and not one has been from Brampton (or a woman).  

A number of hopefuls have openly expressed their desire to take the seat, including retiring Brampton councillors Gael Miles and Elaine Moore. That could be a potentially interesting showdown, after both supported incoming mayor Patrick Brown during the election campaign. To be successful, any Brampton candidate would have to be able to draw considerable support from outside the city.

Another possibility is Nando Iannicca, who is retiring as Mississauga’s longest serving member of council. Iannicca had registered to run for chair before the position, scheduled to be chosen by voters for the first time, was axed from the municipal ballot by Premier Doug Ford. He told The Pointer he remains interested in becoming the regional chair. “I've never withdrawn my willingness to serve and and would be honoured if nominated for the post,” he said.

Despite the significant impact the chair has on Peel Region operations, public interest in the race to replace retiring chair Frank Dale seems minimal. The appointment will follow a fall campaign season that culminated in embarrassingly low voter turnouts across the region — 34.5 percent in Brampton, 27 percent in Mississauga, 32 percent in Caledon — suggesting that local residents don’t take a strong interest in municipal politics.

The Peel Region chair, who votes only in the event of a tie among the 24 others on council, holds the baton that directs council debate and is responsible for ensuring that the business of the region flows smoothly. This includes making decisions about a wide range of regional responsibilities, including policing, paramedics, water and wastewater, public health, garbage and recycling, roads and transportation, housing support, child care, heritage, income support and long-term care homes.

“She has been approached by a number of people who believe she could lead the Region over the next four years but she has not made a final decision.”

Spokesperson for Linda Jeffrey


 

Several big-ticket issues will come to the table over the next session. Already, the Peel Regional Police Service, by far the largest item on the region’s budget, is seeking a 5.4 percent bump to the budget, a $21.5-million question that will need to be addressed by council at budget time. For the current year, Peel has a $2.4-billion annual operating budget and $700 million in capital spending on long-range infrastructure projects.

The new chair will play a critical role in discussions about council composition. Brampton has made it clear it wants more seats at the regional table. With Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie looking to pull her city out altogether, who directs the debates on this issue may have a significant impact on the future of both cities.

The position demands deep knowledge of the region and its three municipalities, the political savvy to control debate, and a spine to stand up to boisterous councillors representing competing interests — a set of skills that generally comes with experience.

So it’s no surprise the position generally attracts those with lengthy resumes in politics.

If Jeffrey were to make a run for the role, her political capital among Brampton councillors, including several newbies who publicly supported her during the campaign, could get her most of the way to a majority. Even some of her detractors on council might vote in her favour to have a familiar and perhaps sympathetic face in the top seat at the regional table.

A former mayor would be particularly qualified for the role of the region’s CEO, with leadership experience making it easier to carry out the legislated responsibilities of a regional chair as set out under the Municipal Act.

These tasks include presiding over council business to ensure it is carried out “efficiently and effectively,” providing leadership in council, providing information and recommendations, and representing the municipality at official functions. The chair serves not only as a liaison between regional staff and council, but also as connective tissue between the region and senior levels of government. The chair must be a sort of cheerleader for the region, acting, as the Municipal Act suggests, to “promote the municipality locally, nationally and internationally,” and to “foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality and its residents.”



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