City’s poll finds majority of Brampton citizens don’t support Peel Region divorce
A poll conducted by the City of Brampton shows a strong majority of residents are against breaking apart Peel Region.
The potential breakup of the regional government overseeing three municipalities has been a contentious issue for months, with the mayors of the region’s two big cities exchanging barbs over the potential impact, positive and negative, of pulling the region apart at the seams.
At an hour-long tele–town hall meeting hosted by Mayor Patrick Brown on April 24, in which nearly 5,000 Brampton residents participated, 66 percent of residents polled said they don’t want to see any change to Peel Region. Some 28 percent supported the idea of merging Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon into a single city, and only 6 percent supported dissolving the region completely.
The long-simmering issue came to a boil with an ongoing regional government review by the province, and it’s far from clear what position the Doug Ford government will take on the outcome.
Brown did not respond to a request for comment with regard to the results of the informal poll by publication time.
Several commentators during the discussion, which had about 1,200 listeners at its peak during the hour, were of the mind that Brampton is doing well right now, so why rock the boat? Others feared the impact any potential change would have on their taxes. With Brampton councillors having approved a tax freeze in the first budget of the council term, along with the lowest budget increase in nearly 20 years, it’s no surprise residents fear a return to above-inflation tax increases in future years.
Other pressing questions that came up in the discussion included the possibility of a transfer payment from Mississauga to the other Peel municipalities, should the city succeed in getting provincial approval to secede from the region, and what impact changes would have on the level of service in areas such as Peel’s public health unit and shelter services.
Participants in the town hall were asked several questions about the review. Not surprisingly, cost was the most pressing matter for participants, with 41 percent listing it as the most important parameter in the review. Nearly 30 percent said that fair and full representation should be the top priority, while 18 percent said streamlining government services was most important, and 6 percent saw independence and a stronger self-identity as most important.
When it comes to policing, 83 percent of participants supported the existing structure of having a single police service for both cities. (The OPP currently patrol Caledon, the third and mostly rural municipality that’s part of Peel.) Some 93 percent supported a single water utility for all three municipalities.
The city acknowledged that its poll is not a true random sample of the population, and that many people participating were seeking more information about the review rather than wanting to voice their opinions.
Many questions asked throughout the town hall and left on voicemail and email afterward were seeking verifiable information about the impact of various potential outcomes of the provincial review.
The future of Peel is a question that has received much attention in council chambers as politicians in Mississauga and Brampton are pointing to two differing reports as evidence of what will happen if Mississauga were to split away or the region were to dissolve.
For Mississauga, where there has long been support for becoming a stand-alone city, councillors have put their faith in a staff update to a report completed in 2003 by Day & Day accountants, outlining how much more the city’s taxpayers were paying into the region than they ought to be. The update, completed this year, concluded the city would save $85 million annually by separating from Peel.
However, a new report commissioned for Peel Region and completed by Deloitte consultants counters the claims in the Mississauga report, labelling them “flawed” and suggesting they don’t present a complete picture of what would happen with dissolution. The Deloitte report challenges Mississauga’s assertion that it pays into Peel Region more than it gets back.
According to Deloitte, amalgamation of the region’s municipalities into one city would require an additional $676 million in tax levies over the next 10 years. However, dissolving the region would cost even more over the next decade. When it comes to efficiency, the report appears to point to the status quo as the best path forward.
That noted, there are clear problems with the Deloitte report. It assumes, for example, that the “crime rate” is a driver of policing costs, suggesting those costs will go up. That’s a somewhat simplistic assumption: crime rates may rise and fall year to year and are considered by criminology experts as a poor way to set budgets. Crime rates can go down, as they have in general in Peel over the past two decades, and yet there has been a spike in violent crime over the past two or three years.
The report from Deloitte, which has faced questions in the past about delivering analysis that supports what clients want to hear, proved explosive when it came before regional councillors. Brampton and Caledon councillors welcomed the new information, and Mississauga councillors rejected it, asserting that it was improperly commissioned by chair Nando Iannicca. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie claimed its creation has fractured trust among regional councillors.
Wounds were still raw during the most recent regional meeting, in which Brown put forward a motion to direct the four CAOs of the region to come up with terms of reference for a new study looking into the financial impacts of dissolution. The motion also asked that an audit by an independent firm other than Deloitte — which serves as the region’s auditor — be used to ensure there were fresh eyes on the issue.
Sifting through council rhetoric and jargon-filled reports can be difficult for residents, and even then, reliable answers as to the impact of a regional government change-up are still in doubt.
Ultimately, under Ontario law, it’s the province’s decision anyway. It’s the senior government’s prerogative to dissolve Peel, amalgamate its municipalities, or leave it as-is. Premier Doug Ford could choose to ignore any study and revamp regional government according to his vision. Already, he’s been quoted as saying he doesn’t have any issues with Mississauga wanting to become its own city.
Residents will have another opportunity to learn about the ongoing review when Ford’s advisors, Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn, come to town as part of the consultation process. A public meeting is scheduled for May 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside Peel council chambers.
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