What would Bonnie Crombie’s departure mean for the City of Mississauga?
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is thinking of vacating her office while her city’s future as an independent municipality is about to be shaped.
Just as Premier Doug Ford has handed her what she and her predecessor Hazel McCallion championed for years, Crombie, in a slice of political bravado, has expressed a clear desire to challenge Ford and his PC majority by becoming the next leader of Ontario’s Liberal party. On Tuesday, Crombie announced she was forming an “exploratory committee” to examine the possibility of her running in the leadership race later this year.
Candidates have until September 5 to register to run. Party members will cast their votes by ranked ballot on November 25 and November 26 and the Liberals will announce their new leader on December 2.
Crombie said Tuesday she will not be stepping down as mayor, for now, and will focus on her Liberal leadership plans during weekends and evenings, but acknowledged that should she formally decide to enter the race ahead of the Party’s December convention, when a new leader is picked, she will have to step aside. A new mayor, she said, could be selected through a by-election, or current members of council could rotate through the position, but that would be unusual with a full three years left in the current term by the time Crombie would have to step down. It’s also unclear if this rotational proposal is allowable under Ontario’s Municipal Act.
The Act states, “If a vacancy occurs in the office of the head of council, the municipality shall… require a by-election to be held, in accordance with the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, to fill the vacancy.” It says, “Within 60 days after the day a declaration of vacancy is made under section 262 with respect to the vacancy, the municipality shall pass a by-law requiring a by-election be held to fill the vacancy.”
But according to the Ontario Municipal Councillor’s Guide, a vacancy must be filled (unless it occurs within 90 days before voting day of a regular election) by either by-election or appointment.
“When deciding whether to fill a vacancy through by-election or through appointment, council may wish to consider circumstances such as whether the vacancy is for the head of council or whether the individual holding the office will sit on both the lower-tier and upper-tier councils,” it explains. “If council decides to appoint a person to a vacant council seat, the appointee must consent to the appointment and must be eligible to hold office. Council decides what process it will use to choose the person it appoints."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing explained that should the seat at the head of Mississauga’s council be vacated, councillors have the option of either a byelection or appointment process to fill the seat.
“Within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant, council shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term or pass a by-law requiring that a by-election be held to fill the vacancy,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “If council decides to appoint a person to a vacant council seat, the appointee must consent to the appointment and must be eligible to hold office. Council decides what process it will use to choose the person it appoints.”
Throughout her time as mayor, Crombie has ignited a new, urban agenda, for the former suburb which has grown into its own dynamic major city. As Mississauga is now set to realize the ambitions its mayor and so many others have reached for, the woman who has for the last decade pulled the city out from its past, feels a higher calling—to help municipalities across Ontario grow the way their residents want, a point she has made early in her ‘exploratory’ campaign. She has criticized Premier Ford and his PC government for stripping away planning authority from cities, through a series of legislative moves aimed at creating 1.5 million new homes across Ontario by 2031.
The possibility of her departure has left residents, council members and staff inside City Hall wondering who will steer the ship Crombie set for sail, in her quest for Mississauga’s independence, while she now considers a new journey.
Bonnie Crombie, who has held her position in the mayor’s chair since 2014, has signalled her move to run for Ontario’s Liberal leadership.
(The Pointer files)
The historic legislation to dissolve the Region of Peel, called the Hazel McCallion Act, introduced last week now creates a series of complex questions about infrastructure and services currently provided by the higher-tier municipal government, which must be divided and assumed or shared by Peel’s soon-to-be independent municipalities—Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.
The legislation tabled last week, if passed, means the Region of Peel will cease to exist by January of 2025, a year before Doug Ford and Crombie could be squaring off for the premier’s seat.
Mississauga is currently facing a $52.5 million year-end deficit for 2022 which is only expected to grow into 2023, City staff have projected.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer files)
Whoever steps in to replace Crombie will have a long list of questions to answer about the shift in governance structure, the allocation of regional assets to the three municipalities and how the possible sharing of costs for services such as policing and infrastructure such as wastewater and other utilities will be determined in a manner fair and equitable to residents of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.
Unprecedented increases in inflation for certain costs and services, coupled with a provincial government determined to download growth-related funding that used to be covered by developers, have put even more pressure on staff and elected officials inside City Hall. Mississauga’s 2023 budget revealed the “City is facing serious funding challenges caused by inflation levels that have not been experienced for decades.” Critical issues like aging infrastructure, a need to improve Mississauga’s Transitway, climate/green investments and emergency services in desperate need of investment, all looming on the horizon, have left the City grappling with an uncertain financial future.
Crombie’s decision comes as Mississauga’s council just hired a new CAO to oversee the administration of the City. Earlier this month, Shari Lichterman was named the top bureaucrat after Paul Mitcham retired suddenly from his position with the City in February following nearly three decades of service. With Lichterman having joined the City less than eight years ago, the decision to appoint a new CAO with limited experience will be even more challenging without Crombie’s leadership.
With news of Mississauga’s coming independence still ringing, the city is losing its seasoned mayor at an unprecedented moment in its history, with a new Chief Administrative Officer at the helm and critical discussions happening around the future of Mississauga, as its divorce from Brampton and Caledon in the two-tiered regional system looms.
It will be up to the current City Council, with four new members around the table, to negotiate how infrastructure is divided, which services should be shared and how revenues will be prioritized once Mississauga stands on its own.
Meanwhile, the $4.6 billion Hurontario LRT’s construction is in full swing, as the largest developments in the city’s history, such as Lakeview Village on its eastern Lake Ontario shoreline, and the residential/commercial reshaping of the downtown Square One mall precinct will have to be navigated by a new mayor, if Crombie decides to take the leap into provincial politics.
Email: [email protected]
At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you
Submit a correction about this story