Brampton City Council slate fully loaded as fall session set to begin
The kids are back in school, the federal election campaign is about to heat up, and councillors are back at city hall.
It’s busy season for everyone as the final quarter of the year looms, and a quick look at council’s to-do list shows an ambitious agenda. If not heeded closely, that could result in several priority items being bumped to later months or even next year, affecting those eagerly awaiting council decisions on key items such as development applications.
“We certainly have a busy fall,” agrees Mayor Patrick Brown. “And at the same time, we have a federal election, so it’s an opportunity. There’s more attention to people’s concerns during an election, and we want to make the most of the federal election by making sure all parties commit to what’s important in Brampton.”
Advocacy with the big party leaders, whom Brown expects to meet with this month, will be one more item on council’s radar. But with the city still lacking a full-time chief administrative officer, they’ll need to do double-duty, keeping track of the many balls that are in the air at city hall.
Mayor Patrick Brown
Brown is excited to see his foreign direct investment strategy get off the ground, something he campaigned on in the 2018 municipal election. Meanwhile, the budget process will be starting up again in some weeks.
With council set to have its first committee meeting after the summer recess on Wednesday, several items are already coming before council this month. According to the city’s Referred Matters List, slotted for council’s Sept. 11 meeting is a report on the cost and benefits of becoming a 5G-enabled city, an item that was initially meant to come back to council in July, and a request for financial support from the Carabram festival. Additionally, following a motion from Brown in May, staff have been in discussions with Peel Regional Police about the possibility of opening a police detachment in downtown Brampton.
Other items with September deadlines include a followup on Brampton’s declaration of a climate emergency and expediting the use of photo radar as a traffic-calming measure (both Sept. 18); ways Brampton can support the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in their legal challenge against Quebec's Bill 21 (Sept. 25), and a financial analysis of the Brampton Beast hockey club sponsorship agreement (Sept. 18).
When it comes to the Referred Matters List, items may be added any time council requests something of staff. If council doesn’t provide a specific timeline for the request, it’s automatically tagged with a three-month deadline. Because of this arbitrary deadline, it’s not uncommon to see particularly complex items delayed or the timeline revised.
However, when council starts to put too much of a burden on staff, it’s clear that the backlog begins to pile up, which leads to some items being delayed.
There were 16 other deadlines this month that have been put off, including a request that the city endorse the 2018-2028 Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy. That was supposed to be on the agenda Sept. 4 but has now been pushed to December. So has a look at future space requirements for the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame, and a look at relocating the proposed Hurontario LRT stop at Steeles Avenue.
In total, there are 53 items listed on the Referred Matters List, 35 of which have had their timelines revised at least once, some as many as four or five times. A decision to implement the Parks Enhancement Strategy has had its deadline revised six times.
To be fair, city officials have dealt with a lot of curveballs so far in 2019, which put certain items on the back burner. The PCs and Premier Doug Ford pulling the plug on the funding for the Ryerson University campus and the serious cuts to municipal services included in Rob Ford’s provincial budget earlier this year are two examples.
The extent of council’s current workload, which Brown admits to The Pointer is quite ambitious, underlines the need to recruit an able and qualified CAO who can manage the business of the city while adapting to factors outside the world of city hall.
Yet, it has taken considerable time to even begin looking for a full-time replacement for Harry Schlange, who was fired from the role last December. A recruitment committee hopes to have a new person in the role by the end of the year.
When asked by The Pointer about the delay, Brown defended council’s go-slow approach, pointing to similar timelines in hiring the new Peel Regional Police chief. Nishan Duraiappah was hired for the role in early August, following former chief Jennifer Evans’ departure in January.
“I think council just wanted to put some more thought into it, and frankly, there’s been some different timelines associated with it,” Brown says, noting that initially council wanted to wait until a decision was made on the ongoing review of regional governance being conducted by the province. That review was originally meant to be concluded this summer, but a revised timeline has the final report being delivered by the province’s special advisors this fall.
“So we’ve been dealing with some balls that have been moving, but we’ve been talking a lot about it and making sure that we did it in the right fashion,” Brown says.
“I believe this council has an ambitious agenda,” he adds. “We want a CAO that is going to help us implement that agenda. If the city has aspirations, don’t tell us why we can’t do it, tell us how we can do it.”
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