As Bonnie Crombie exits the mayor’s chair, where does it leave Mississauga?
Today marks Bonnie Crombie’s last official day as the mayor of Mississauga—for now.
The months ahead will define the Mississauga Mayor’s political future as she pushes ahead with her bid to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, where she is the clear front-runner. Should she be successful in her quest for a political upgrade, Crombie, currently in her third term as the leader of the province's third largest city, will not return to the mayor’s chair.
Her leave comes as the City navigates its independence from Peel Region, and some of the largest development projects in its history, which will shape the city’s future.
Not only are questions swirling within City Hall, but Mississauga residents are also left wondering who will lead Mississauga at the most important point in its history.
On September 14 Crombie officially confirmed she would be taking an unpaid leave of absence from her role as mayor “to give [her] all to Ontario Liberals,” a decision she says was not taken lightly, adding “I'm excited to enter the next phase of the Ontario Liberal Leadership campaign.”
The Mayor’s office confirmed Crombie would be taking a leave of absence while she continues her campaign, adding Crombie “will continue to keep Mississauga’s priorities top of mind as she embarks on her leadership bid."
October 6 marks Bonnie Crombies final official day in her mayoral role as she takes a leave of absence to focus on her bid for the Ontario Liberal leadership.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer files)
In her final days before taking a leave, the Mayor’s office said Crombie would be working with the City to review council’s key priorities in the coming months, including the 2024 budget — arguably one of the municipality’s most critical blueprints that lays out the where the City plans to direct its funds and make major financial decisions on the most pressing matters for the following year.
Repeated austerity budgets to keep property taxes around the rate of inflation, while needed infrastructure investments were neglected, forcing councillors to make difficult decisions as the City set its 2023 budget. With new pressures like the City’s split from the Region of Peel and the PC government’s daunting Bill 23 looming, it's unclear how City Council will manage the 2024 budget.
The City of Mississauga began budget discussions for 2024 on Wednesday. Under the Municipal Act, authority to propose the budget rests solely with the mayor. This year’s budget will be presented to council on November 6, a month after Crombie steps away from her role.
The City’s budget committee is scheduled to meet November 27 to 29, just days after Liberal members cast their ranked ballots to select their new leader. During Wednesday’s budget meeting Crombie confirmed that regardless of her campaign, or whether she is successful in her leadership bid, that she would return from her leave to oversee Mississauga’s 2024 budget process, adding she is “deeply committed to this community.”
Crombie’s departure also comes as the City navigates the separation from the Region of Peel and the challenges that will come with untangling major projects, assets and finances as Mississauga gains its long-awaited independence. This, coupled with the ballooning population growth anticipated over the next decade, places the City of Mississauga in one of the most unprecedented times in its history.
“This is a particularly significant time both in the Mayor’s career and in the City’s journey to an independent city. Both issues have to be weighed carefully,” Councillor Carolyn Parrish previously told The Pointer prior to Crombie announcing a leave of absence.
Mississauga has never been a standalone city. It was previously a fantasy dreamed up by the city’s former leader Hazel McCallion, who fought feverishly to make the municipality a single entity. Now, Peel Region’s dissolution means large files like public housing, waste management, policing and public health, on top of all the other responsibilities currently handled by the Region, will be passed down to City Hall as it transitions from a lower-tier municipality to an independent corporation.
The City is also faced with major development projects like the Hurontario LRT; the expansion and redevelopment of the Mississauga Hospital; a Minister’s Zoning Order for the Lakeview Village development — all of this on top of the pressures of the PC government’s Bill 23 which will bring insurmountable growth into the city.
Crombie’s departure leaves Mississauga in a precarious position as it grapples with historical changes.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer files)
“I’m confident that Councillors and staff won’t miss a beat with the Mayor’s leave as we’ve had time to prepare and plan,” Councillor Horneck wrote in an email to The Pointer. “Council receives regular updates from the city manager and regional staff on the progress toward dissolution. We are very focused on making sure we continue to deliver the great service we expect while getting the savings from reduction of duplication in some areas.”
Any decision on replacing her has been put on hold as she heads down the campaign trail. A possible byelection cannot be planned until Crombie makes a decision about stepping aside permanently.
Should Crombie choose to step away ahead of the December vote, a City spokesperson explained that “if a vacancy occurs in the office of the head of council, Council has 60 days after the vacancy is declared to pass a bylaw requiring a byelection be held to fill the vacancy.”
As Crombie begins her leave, the City will deploy the Acting Mayor bylaw, “which will see Councillors rotate as Acting Head of Council on 2-month rotations to fulfill mayoral duties such as chairing Council and Committee meetings and attending official city events on behalf of the Mayor.” The City’s current rotation will see councillors Chris Fonseca and John Kovac fill in for the remainder of the year.
“The rotation cannot continue indefinitely,” a City spokesperson previously told The Pointer.
Parrish, who has been vocal about her concerns around the mayor’s decision to seek the Liberal leadership stating the city needs a “full time”, “committed” mayor to lead it during this time, has pointed out Crombie may not be required to resign as mayor even if she wins the leadership. Rather, she would only have to step down from the role should she become a Member of Provincial Parliament.
A spokesperson from the City previously confirmed with The Pointer that there is no such requirement under the Municipal Act that would require Crombie to step down should she become leader, however, the Mayor has made it clear that should she be successful in her bid, she will tender her resignation.
Many councillors have agreed a byelection is the best move to allow residents to choose who will lead the city.
If Crombie does not officially vacate her seat until the Liberal leadership decision in December, Mississauga would be looking at a byelection around early June 2024.
“If the Mayor chooses to take a temporary leave of absence of less than three months, her seat would not be deemed vacant and no by-election would be held,” the spokesperson previously said, adding there is no time limit on a leave of absence. “However a Council seat is deemed vacant if a member is absent from Council meetings for three successive months.”
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