Brampton needs more space for parks and recreation but Patrick Brown has choked off funding
Feature Image Alexis Wright/The Pointer

Brampton needs more space for parks and recreation but Patrick Brown has choked off funding

When Patrick Brown’s political career was on the ropes in 2018 following allegations of sexual assault by two young women (which the mayor denies) he begged Brampton voters to salvage his sinking fortunes. 

One of the many promises he made while under fire, grasping at nearly anything to resurface as the mayor of a city he had never even lived in, was the pledge to get a world class cricket facility built in Brampton before the end of his first term—two years ago. 

Voters gave him a lifeline. Six years later, like other promises including a brand new university and second hospital, the cricket facility is nowhere in sight. 

Brampton has long struggled with delivering its promise to residents—that all the new homes City Hall approves in droves, will be accompanied by the features families expect in a rapidly growing community. Developed as a suburb of Toronto, the city is largely defined by sprawling single family houses, bordered by industrial and commercial spaces including hundreds of trucking and transportation operations. 


Brampton's west side, including Huttonville, still features wide open greenspaces and some farmland, but future development has already been planned with little money budgeted to ensure parks and recreational facilities will be a significant part of the mix.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


Its once abundant greenspaces are giving way to development and many of the existing parks and trail systems have seen little investment since Brown’s election in 2018. 

City finances were immediately frozen and a series of controversial projects such as Brown’s failed Brampton University scheme ended up costing taxpayers dearly for nothing in return—he cancelled a half-dozen investigations launched by a majority of council members in 2022, and despite a staff report and early independent investigation updates that showed Brown gave a friend with no experience hundreds of thousands of dollars never approved by councillors for university planning work that was never done, the mayor pulled the plug on all the third-party oversight work.

While greenspace expansion and the addition of recreational spaces were overlooked due to Brown’s budget cuts, he spent millions of dollars to pay out staff fired under his leadership, on questionable contracts to friends and associates and on international travel for himself, staff and his council allies

The promised cricket facility is one of the biggest sore spots for residents who Brown promised would see a world class stadium before the end of 2022. 

A staff report was brought forward claiming it could be built for $35 million, a fraction of what an international tournament stadium would actually cost. After repeatedly claiming the money would be put into the budget, Brown has failed to do so.  

An ugly episode unfolded last year, when Councillor Rowena Santos rejected previous council commitments to refurbish Brampton's Emancipation Park, a greenspace celebrated and widely used by the city's Black communities after the space was opened to commemerate the abolition of slavery. Brown supported Santos, who was criticized for allowing past political differences to interfere with the critically needed improvements to a popular park in the city that provides key access to vital outdoor space, another example of the neglect under the mayor's leadership.


(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


As the city faces another major boom in population growth over the next decade, staff are now looking at ways to create new parks and recreation spaces to support more residents, with existing ones clamouring for more investment as Brown cuts spending on crucial municipal features while using taxpayer dollars recklessly in ways that advance his political career, such as his large team of staff who run the mayor’s sprawling media and social media operations. 

The City currently maintains 1,200 hectares of parkspace which is in line with the target provision of 1.6 hectares per 1,000 residents as outlined in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan (PRMP). But this is a skewed representation of parkland across the City. The PRMP divides the City into nine Recreational Planning Areas (RPA). Areas A, D, F, G and H are all surpassing the target parkland provision with 2.2, 1.8, 1.8, 2.8 and 2.0 hectares per 1,000 residents respectively. Comparatively, areas B and I are facing a parkland deficit with only 0.7 and 0.3 hectares per 1,000 residents.

Achieving the Brampton Parks Plan requires a total of 1,442 hectares of recreational parkland across the city by 2036. However, future parkland that has been approved and/or conveyed through development applications as of December 2023, will not get City Hall to its target when population growth is accounted for up to the middle of the next decade. By 2036, the population of the City will be near 900,000 but future parkland is only predicted to reach 1,247 hectares leaving the City with a total of 1.4 hectares per 1,000 residents. 


Green spaces represent existing parks and yellow spaces represent future parks to add by 2036.

(City of Brampton)


While the decrease of parkspace across the entire city is not too drastic, the impact on individual neighbourhoods is far greater. By 2036, areas A, B, E and I will all be in significant parkland deficits with 1.0, 0.7, 1.1 and 0.3 hectares per 1,000 residents respectively.

The biggest change is in Area A in the northwest corner of Brampton which is experiencing the most rapid growth across the city. By 2036, the population in this one area is expected to increase 130 percent reaching a total of 100,000 residents. But parkland over the next 12 years is only expected to increase by 0.1 hectares. 

Area A contains the Heritage Heights neighbourhood covering approximately 17-square kilometres spanning from Winston Churchill Road to Mississauga Road, bordered by Mayfield Road in the north and Williams Parkway along the south. Heritage Heights presents a unique opportunity for Brampton with a combination of mixed use residential neighbourhoods and affordable housing with recreational amenities (hopefully) to support the coming population. The last undeveloped area in the city would become its first “complete community”.

“The concept plan for Heritage Heights reflects best practices for creating a community where future residents and employers can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and high quality of life. It is based on extensive community engagement, and sets the framework for a sustainable, liveable, vibrant and healthy place to live, work, learn and play,” a City press release from 2020, trumpets. 

While the City’s vision prioritizes natural areas, and maximizes natural features, such as trees along boulevards, open greenspaces and recreational facilities, according to the PRMP, very little parkspace is being added to this neighbourhood (0.1 hectare) between now and 2036. 

The presentation by Monteith Brown Planning Consultants, who aided staff in the development of the new PRMP, underscored the irresponsible financial management under Patrick Brown’s leadership: “Brampton does not have the existing financial capacity to implement all initiatives [outlined in the PRMP],” Anand Desai, with Monteith, said. “A Funding Plan will identify costs and internal / external funding sources.”

The City’s 2024 Capital Budget allocates $22 million for Parks Maintenance and Forestry in total, but the entire allocation for new neighbourhood parks is $75,000. 

“The construction of new Development Charges-funded neighbourhood parks up to 5 acres in size typically includes playgrounds, lit walkways, trees, and benches. Additional features such as splash pads, multi-purpose courts, and/or skateboarding facilities will be included where park size permits, and shade structures will be included up to our Development Charges funding limit of one structure for every two parks,” the budget document states.

Potential funding sources for parkland acquisition include cash from builders in exchange for more development space, charges builders pay for surrounding infrastructure, the Canada Community Building Fund and using one of the City’s reserve accounts. In 2022, the City updated its Parkland Dedication Bylaw which sets out the parameters for how much land a developer is required to hand over to the City for parkspace within the planned development, a number that is calculated based on the number of units in each development, and cash-in-lieu of parkland rates, a payment that allows the developer to provide money to the City instead of land, which is supposed to go toward community improvements. 

But when Bill 23 was pushed through by the PC government in late 2022, much to the objection of municipalities, provincial regulations surrounding development charges and the way that municipalities collected fees for parkland dedication were changed. The Bill reduces the total development charges that can be collected by municipalities for associated infrastructure like roads, trails, community centres and other essential services. The Bill also caps parkland dedication fees at no more than 10 percent of the value of properties less than five hectares in size and 15 percent for larger properties. 

These funding challenges come at a time when the City is already struggling to maintain sustainable parkland levels, and new facilities like Brown’s promised cricket stadium have failed to materialize. The PRMP commends the City for adding an additional 100 hectares of parkspace since 2017; however, since that year, the population of the City has grown by approximately 150,000, meaning the rate of parkland growth is only 0.67 hectares per 1,000 new residents. 

While the $75,000 for new parks in 2024 is a fraction of what is needed, it is not much less than the $100,000 allocated for the same projects in 2023. This is a result of subsequent budget cuts made by Mayor Brown. Despite City documents noting these services are in desperate need of significant funding, cuts in bridge repairs, parks maintenance and forestry, and recreation are highlighted in the 2024 budget. 

Many of Brampton’s green initiatives are pushed to the backburner by a single project that will cost the City nearly $100 million. The Riverwalk is a three-phase initiative prioritizing flood protection while also creating new parks, bridges, pathways and pedestrian crossings, tree-lined corridors and stormwater systems. 

While the City has pledged $87.3 million ($28.5 million from the federal government) for the project, Brown has cancelled other crucial infrastructure initiatives such as Downtown Reimagined, and funding to facilitate the key parts of the Riverwalk project, which go far beyond standard flood mitigation, has yet to be realized. Without funding for even the early stages, including flood mitigation work, fully secured it is unclear when a project of this scale will actually be achieved for Brampton residents. 

Even if the Riverwalk project is completed while neglecting parkland expansion city-wide, this will contribute to the skewed access to greenspaces across the entire city.

A recent study by the University of Waterloo published the link between youth mental health and exposure to natural features and the outdoors. A survey was done along a 1.65-kilometre walking path in Kitchener, traversing six distinct settings including a multimodal transit path, a residential street, an urban bluespace (i.e. local lake), an urban greenspace (i.e. local park), a public transit hub and a built-up downtown street. 

After looking at an urban lake for just two to three minutes, scores on a validated anxiousness scale decreased by nine percent, contrasted with an anxiousness score that increased 13 percent when standing in a busy downtown street for the same amount of time. 

The lead author of the study Leia Minaker, suggested that proximity to these natural escapes is crucial to make mental health benefits accessible to the entire population. This can be done using cash-in-lieu fees to create parks in the neighbourhood of a development rather than using those funds to support greenspaces on the fringes while downtown and industrial cores remain dominated by concrete.

“I think creating policies or strategies to incentivize developers to maintain as much green space as possible for cities to recognize the importance of green spaces,” she said. 

Area I, as identified in the PRMP, in the southeast corner of Brampton, is facing the most extreme parkland deficit with 0.3 hectares per 1,000 residents currently, and also projected for 2036. While this is one of the least populated areas of Brampton due to the large presence of industrial facilities, it is also highly populated by visible minorities which raises concerns about underfunding in racialized communities. While Brampton as a whole is heavily racialized with approximately 80 percent of residents identifying as a visible minority, 99 percent of the population living in the southeast area identify as a visible minority according to the 2021 census. 

The second part of the PRMP deals with recreation centres. The 2024 budget allocates $9 million for facilities repair and replacement for recreation centres across the city. This only accounts for maintenance and repair of existing facilities and does not include funding for new recreational facilities that will be needed to support a growing population.

The presentation from the consultancy group was a wake up call for Brampton to realize the importance that parks and recreation facilities play in the city. But the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, like many other initiatives in Brampton, can not be realized if Brown continues to ignore the promises he made to the voters who saved his withering political career.  



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_

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