Brown’s ultimatum to province ahead of AMO conference: give us what we want or lose Brampton
Mayor Patrick Brown has some strong language for the province before going into this year’s annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference. His choice words? Give us what we so desperately need, or get wiped out. “The last [Liberal] government failed to deliver for Brampton and they lost every single seat in Brampton,” Brown told The Pointer.
Brown says it’s about time the Doug Ford government delivered, because “we haven’t seen investments in healthcare in Brampton. We’re going to be pushing for accountability, we’re going to be pushing for the government to start delivering. If they don’t, they will follow the same [path] as their predecessors and be wiped out of the 905” area code. The Progressive Conservatives currently hold two seats in Brampton. Amarjot Sandhu represents Brampton West, and Prabmeet Sarkaria, Brampton South.
Brampton PC MPPs Prabmeet Sarkaria, left, and Amarjot Sandhu
With the AMO conference just over a week away, the city constructed a wish list of items to discuss with provincial ministers, including the healthcare file, the future of regional government after the province’s current review, the aftermath of the More Homes, More Choice Act, and transit.
The odds are stacked against the mayor, who will be attending his first AMO conference in the role and the first where he will be confronting leaders of the party he briefly led. He made some enemies among the Ontario Progressive Conservatives after writing his tell-all book Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown, following his ouster in early 2018. Minister of Economic Development Vic Fedeli has sued Brown for defamation for detailing in the book a complaint by a former female staffer against Fedeli. The city has requested a meeting with Fedeli, and Brown is listed as a possible delegate.
The city’s track record at the AMO stands in his way as well. In the past, Brampton’s advocacy efforts at the conference, which brings together municipal and provincial leaders, have brought paltry results or been rocked by infighting.
Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon expressed dissatisfaction with his then colleagues on council in the summer of 2017, when he accused members of the Transit Council of Chairs, a transit-focused gathering of the chairs of various city committees, of walking into an Aug. 14 meeting ill-prepared for their slated discussion with Liberal transportation minister Steven Del Duca.
Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon
“The Transit Committee was a knee-jerk reaction to Brampton at the time not being given a stop on the — I think it's now cancelled — HSR,” Dhillon said, referring to a proposed high-speed rail line connecting Toronto and Windsor. The project was cancelled last April by the Ford government in favour of enhancing current rail services.
“Really, they did no research on the HSR. It was an excuse to distract from the lack of any movement on transit from the previous councils, and so they formed this committee … That meeting with the transportation minister was not fruitful. After that, we never really heard of the transit committee of chairs ever again.”
Council under Brown’s predecessor, Linda Jeffrey, often published a list of asks for the provincial government. For the 2018 conference, Jeffrey wanted $19.2 million towards phase 2 of the Peel Memorial Urgent Care Centre, which has yet to materialize.
On an optimistic high produced by the province’s promise the previous April of $90 million for a Ryerson University extension campus in Brampton, the city was looking for provincial help to grow enrollment. That $90-million pledge was revoked by the PCs after the election of Patrick Brown, and there is no hint that the campus project might be revived.
Mayor Patrick Brown at Wednesday's council meeting
The Riverwalk project, involving flood mitigation and recreational development along Etobicoke Creek, has been a subject of discussion as well. So far, the city has received only $1.5 million from the federal government, just enough to cover part of the environmental assessment.
On the subject of healthcare funding, it came up in council that the city hasn’t managed to even secure a meeting with any of the provincial health ministers for the past three years. Last June, the mayor and councillors kickstarted an advocacy campaign called #FairDealForBrampton, a campaign to win funding for improved healthcare infrastructure in Brampton from the province. As to getting a fair deal, just getting Health Minister Christine Elliott’s attention will present a challenge; as of now, a meeting with Elliott is listed as “to be determined.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott and Premier Doug Ford
The city’s dismal track record at AMO meetings can perhaps be attributed to Brampton council’s frequent disunity in past years. If councillors aren’t on the same page, it’s next to impossible to advocate effectively on behalf of the city. Lowell Rubin-Vaughan, the city’s manager of government relations and public policy, says councillors are well aware of the importance of the AMO meeting. He said issues on the wish list have been “endorsed by council. So from our perspective, these are all the same speaking points.”
It seems that Mississauga City Council’s approach to the AMO gathering has been a little more robust. A spokesperson for Mayor Bonnie Crombie’s office, Natasha Mistry, said “the Mayor’s Office prepares a briefing binder for each councillor, complete with key messages. These messages, as well as the priorities discussed with each Minister, are Council approved and based on the 2019 Ontario Pre-Budget Submission document.”
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