Chaotic scramble to get $660,000 consultant’s report to province ahead of its deadline for feedback on future of Peel Region
The provincial government is closing the door for feedback from municipalities ahead of its looming decision on their future. But the midnight deadline today to hear from Peel Region, and other jurisdictions across Ontario, might arrive before a pricey consultant’s report from Ernst and Young is ready.
Regional council called for the last-minute analysis, to provide evidence of the potential outcomes of a municipal government shuffle in Peel at its meeting on May 9, just 12 days ahead of today’s deadline set by the province to get input before Queen’s Park makes its behind-closed-door decision on the future of regional government structures across the province.
By the end of the work day, Tuesday, there was no indication that Peel Region had received the completed work from E&Y, just hours ahead of the deadline to send the information to the province, which begs the question: what was the point of the costly exercise?
The report was to come with an approximately $660,000 price tag, and it’s now clear councillors, even if it gets handed in just ahead of the wire, won’t be seeing it beforehand to offer comment and there will be no public input on the work.
A spokesperson for the Region of Peel told The Pointer that the final document is expected to be in regional hands “quite late tonight, probably close to midnight.”
That’s right before the deadline for municipalities, citizens and other stakeholders to provide comments on the regional government review launched by Premier Doug Ford, which could see a major shake-up of eight regional jurisdictions that include the vast majority of Ontario’s population.
Peel was hoping the E&Y work would shed some light on which of three likely outcomes of the government overhaul would be best for Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon. Ford and his government could choose to leave Peel as-is, amalgamate all three cities or just Brampton and Mississauga into one super-city, or allow Mississauga and/or Brampton to become independent, stand-alone municipalities.
Mississauga is desperate for its independence, Caledon wants the status quo and Brampton will reveal its position later in the evening Tuesday at a special council meeting, just hours before the deadline to send its position to the province.
The E&Y document will be made public once it’s been sent to the province as per a motion from regional council, but the slim timeline means regional councillors will have no opportunity to assess the report to make sure it’s accurate and does not include any faulty or sweeping assumptions. Instead, a small steering committee, comprised of representatives from the region, as well as the three area municipalities will sign-off on the report before it’s sent to Queen’s Park.
“It begs the question, could there have been some leadership on this, and (could) it have been done earlier? Probably, but we are where we are,” Caledon and Regional Councillor Johanna Downey told The Pointer Tuesday.
The Ernst and Young report was commissioned after months of squabbling between a divided regional council over the eventual submission to the provincial advisors. Mississauga councillors have made their stance quite clear with Mississauga’s independence being championed for months, led by Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie
Crombie admits that further time to review the Ernst and Young report would have been preferable, and wishes council had been able to come to an agreement to commission the report in January to allow more time for discussion on the document.
“Instead, they commissioned a secret report that will be replaced by the more comprehensive, accurate and complete analysis by EY,” she told The Pointer Tuesday, referring to the earlier report completed by Deloitte and commissioned by regional chair Nando Iannicca and regional staff.
“For the first time, the Region of Peel has commissioned a comprehensive, independent study that takes into account data and information from each member municipality. Each municipality agreed to the terms of reference and scope, as well as provided data. This is the only fair way to do such a report. I want to thank them all for their work over a very short period of time and commitment to making sure we get this right,” she added.
The findings of the Ernst and Young report can now only be speculated on, until they are made public after being handed to the province (which has stated its work will be done behind the scenes), but the thoroughness of any analysis of four different municipal governments intertwined for five decades, trying to determine the allocation of revenue and spending on infrastructure and services, with only 12 days to crunch all the data, consider all the factors and come up with formulas to weigh the benefits of each potential scenario of the regional review, is questionable.
Council set aside $660,000 for Ernst & Young’s work (which includes a legal position from another firm), on top of the $325,000 already spent on Deloitte and firm Watson and Associates — a split commissioning process conducted by Peel Region staff without council’s approval that may have also violated the region’s procurement bylaw.
The controversial Deloitte report, which suggested the status quo would be the most effective means for the Region of Peel to move forward in a fiscally responsible manner, was slammed by Mississauga councillors who saw its commissioning by Iannicca, and eventual sharing with Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown before other councillors as a violation of trust in the council chambers.
Regional Chair Nando Iannicca
The findings of that report were also picked apart by Mississauga councillors during a delegation by members of the Deloitte consulting firm who attended chambers to defend their report, with Mayor Crombie and others labelling many of the firm’s assumptions as “flawed.”
Crombie, for months, has been highlighting the findings of a Mississauga staff report that suggests the city could save $85 million annually by separating from Peel.
In a series of exchanges that raised questions about the professionalism of the entire process, Deloitte, who completed an analysis of the Mississauga report, labelled its conclusions as “flawed” and said they did not “present the complete picture”.
As regional councillors await the eventual Ernst and Young document, Brampton council will be sitting down to decide its own official stance to the province.
Residents of the city have had several opportunities to share their opinions with councillors, and the majority has largely been in favour of the status quo.
Most recently, Mainstreet Research completed a poll for the City of Brampton which showed 66 percent of respondents are in favour of leaving Peel’s government structure the same. Only 8 percent of respondents saw a break-up of Peel with Brampton becoming independent as the best option, while 25 percent preferred to see a centralization of all government at the regional level (one city).
Caledon saw similar results to Brampton with 63 percent of respondents preferring that things be left the same, 19 percent prefer a break-up to accommodate Mississauga's independence and 17 percent want centralization to creat one super-city.
These results are in stark contrast to the City of Mississauga where residents have been experiencing a strong public relations campaign out of city hall in favour of Mississauga’s independence. According to Mainstreet, the majority of respondents, 48 percent, were in favour of breaking up the region in favour of independence while 34 percent preferred things be kept the same, and 17 percent want to see a centralization to creat one city.
The Mainstreet poll was conducted through a phone survey between April 29 and May 1 among a random sampling of adults 18 years or older in Peel Region. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.18 percent 95 percent of the time.
Brampton council is set to receive a full presentation on the Mainstreet results at tonight’s meeting.
Previously, at an hour-long tele-town hall meeting hosted by Mayor Brown on April 24, a poll taken during the call showed 66 percent of residents who participated in the informal survey 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 Brampton becoming a “stand alone”, independent municipality.
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