Update: Last-minute council meeting will reveal city’s position on regional governance review hours before provincial deadline
Update: Last-minute council meeting will reveal city’s position on regional governance review hours before provincial deadline
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer/Rick Drennan

Update: Last-minute council meeting will reveal city’s position on regional governance review hours before provincial deadline


A press release sent to The Pointer on Friday says that Brampton city council will be holding a special meeting to “pass a resolution regarding the City’s stance” on the ongoing provincial review of regional government. The meeting is being held late on Tuesday May 21, the day of the province’s deadline for municipalities to submit feedback on which direction to take.

Brampton could be dissolved and amalgamated into one super-city with Mississauga, it could be removed from regional government and become independent or the status quo, leaving it in Peel’s current model, could be the outcome of the PC government’s province-wide review.

While Mississauga has for months gained momentum, with social media and other engagement campaigns well ahead of the provincial deadline creating widespread public support for its clearly stated goal of becoming independent, Brampton council has yet to announce a clear stance for the future of the country’s ninth largest municipality. A recent town hall on the issue drew a meagre crowd, while Mississauga, with its well-articulated plan that has for months made the case to residents there, packed its recent town hall meeting.

The start of Brampton's recent town hall on the regional review

The start of Mississauga's recent town hall on the regional review

The official position of the city will be revealed Tuesday evening, hours before the province’s deadline.

“This will be submitted to the Province’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for consideration as part of the provincial review of regional governments,” reads the release. Like the rest of the city’s response to the surprise move by the province five months ago, the decision to hold the public meeting seems last-minute. It wasn’t announced till Friday, days before the deadline to send feedback to inform the province’s final decision on the future of Peel and Brampton.

It’s unclear what actual evidence and financial data the city is using to formalize its official position, as a full analysis by an external firm ordered by regional council, does not appear to be ready. An earlier controversial report commissioned by Peel Region without regional council’s approval has been used by Mayor Patrick Brown to counter Mississauga’s desire to get a divorce. That report by Deloitte suggests keeping the region as-is would be the most beneficial outcome. But Mississauga councillors have deeply scrutinized the report for being flawed, with little actual financial analysis, no data from the municipalities and no engagement with them to understand the factors such an analysis should have considered.

Despite Brampton’s use of the Deloitte report as a justification against Mississauga’s preferred outcome, the city has not presented its own clear vision for a desired future governance model that would be most beneficial for residents here.

Caledon and Mississauga have notified the public of their stance well in advance of the deadline, with Brampton’s neighbour to the north saying its preferred option is status-quo.

It is not known how long the city’s move to pass a resolution formalizing its position Tuesday evening has been in the works, so it’s hard to know what sort of public feedback is informing the decision to adopt the council resolution that will be tabled Tuesday.

An informal survey during a tele-town hall a month ago showed that 66 percent of respondents want the status quo, 28 percent opted for the amalgamation of Brampton into one super-city with Mississauga and only 6 percent want independence. That’s a stark contrast to our larger neighbour to the south where residents have resoundingly called for a divorce so Mississauga, the sixth largest city in Canada, can stand on its own two feet.

Brampton City Hall was the scene of a town hall two weeks ago on the regional review, but very few residents showed up to provide input on the matter. Meanwhile, Mississauga’s town hall on the issue was packed shoulder to shoulder.

Region of Peel council will likely also miss the deadline to provide detailed feedback with a proper financial analysis of each option being considered by the province, and no possibility of extending the timeline to offer input. Due to inter-municipal bickering over Mississauga wanting to separate from the region, council voted to commission a new $660,000 financial analysis, being conducted by Ernst & Young, on the impacts of the scenarios that could play out in the regional review: status-quo, dissolution or amalgamation.

But that decision was made only 12 days before Tuesday’s deadline, with regional councillors voicing their skepticism that the $660,000 analysis would be completed prior to the deadline to provide an official position to the province, considering the volume of work to analyze financial contributions through taxes by each of the three municipalities over five decades of regional government in Peel, while trying to determine all the benefits each municipality received over that period. A job that likely would need months was asked to be done in less than two weeks.

It’s unclear if it will be finished in time for the deadline. It’s possible that the $660,000 spent by regional council might have little impact.      

The new financial analysis, which is supposed to directly involve senior staff from all three municipalities and Peel Region to get an accurate picture of the implications of all possible outcomes of the provincial review, was a compromise after Mississauga councillors called out the previous $325,000 Deloitte report that had been commissioned for being secretive and flawed. It suggested that the status quo option, preferred by the Region, which hired Deloitte, is the most beneficial outcome. Council was not informed that Chair Nando Iannicca and staff ordered the Deloitte analysis and the firm never directly approached any of the municipalities for data or other key documentation to do its analysis.

Mississauga councillors at the region ripped into Iannicca for requesting the Deloitte work without council approval and they subsequently tore the report apart, pointing out sweeping assumptions that were made and entire areas of data that were not included, as Deloitte failed to consult with municipal staff or acquire key pieces of information.   

An external legal opinion obtained by Mississauga also suggests that Iannicca and senior regional staff may have violated procurement bylaws by purchasing the services of two firms, Deloitte and Watson and Associates, at a combined cost that was above the threshold requiring council approval. Services valued at $250,000 and above have to go to council for a vote, and the combined value of both firm’s work for the same overall report reached $325,000. Regional staff dispute the claim saying the individual quotes by each firm do not go over the threshold.

The infighting over the report meant that E&Y came into the picture days ahead of the the May 21 deadline. With 12 days to go at a May 9 regional council meeting, members acknowledged that the report would have to be “walked on,” meaning the public will not be able to look at the report in advance of the deadline, nor will councillors have adequate time to study it.  

Even if the report is both thorough enough and somehow meets the deadline in the short amount of time given, the province may not even consider it. “It won’t be a publicly tabled report. The [provincial] government can do whatever it wants at the end of the day, but they’ll take that as advice,” provincial adviser on the regional review Ken Seiling told The Pointer during the recent consultation in Peel.

When some regional councillors suggested the use of the controversial Deloitte report, if the new analysis is not ready by Tuesday’s deadline, Mississauga councillors were quick to torpedo that idea, successfully passing a motion at regional council on May 9, the day the commissioning of the E&Y report was approved, to send it straight to the province, sight unseen, if that means getting it in before Tuesday’s deadline.

 

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