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Ford government, transition board shocked at cost of Peel Region dissolution, source says

From left to right, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Caledon Mayor Annette Groves. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press, Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
From left to right, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Caledon Mayor Annette Groves. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press, Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The Ontario government and a transition board it has appointed to oversee the breakup of Peel Region are shocked by the cost of dissolution and the fact that it may cause massive tax increases in all three municipalities, a source with direct knowledge of the discussions has told CBC News.

The Toronto Star reported on Tuesday that its sources say Premier Doug Ford is poised to cancel his plan to dissolve the region. Dissolution would allow Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon to go their separate ways.

There has been no official word from the government, however.

Concerns expressed by unions representing Peel Regional Police and Peel Regional Paramedic Services are being taken seriously by the province, the source said.

On Tuesday, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said dissolution could jeopardize paramedic services in the region, while Caledon Mayor Annette Groves urged the province to rethink the dissolution.

Speaking on CBC Radio's Metro Morning Wednesday, Brown said he's hopeful the province will reverse its decision.

"It's never the wrong time to make the right decision, and the facts in the case of the Peel dissolution have been glaring, and they've become more glaring as the transition board has looked into this," Brown said.

"It is an ugly train wreck on the verge of happening. If they can stop this, then stop it."

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who was elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party on the weekend, has defended the move.

"The premier and I don't agree on a lot of things, but we do agree on dissolution of the region of Peel," Crombie told reporters at Queen's Park on Tuesday.

"He has made it his mandate to cut red tape and eliminate duplication and all of those great things. And this is precisely what the dissolution of Peel does."

Crombie said there is much duplication in Peel Region because many services are provided by both the region and individual municipality. These include planning, roads, business services and administration.

"It is the right thing to do so we can all control our own destiny," she said.

Newly-elected leader Bonnie Crombie poses for a photo at the Queens Park Legislature  in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.
Newly-elected leader Bonnie Crombie poses for a photo at the Queens Park Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

Newly-elected leader Bonnie Crombie poses for a photo at the Queens Park Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

In a statement later, Crombie said the process is "already well underway and working," and will enable local government to run more efficiently.

"What we need to do is focus on the task at hand, roll up our sleeves and ensure we deliver the best deal for all our taxpayers," she said.

"Dissolving Peel Region and eliminating an additional layer of government would allow Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon to become more efficient, reduce confusion amongst residents, streamline the delivery of services, and ultimately save residents and businesses time and money."

Legislation set to dissolve Peel in January 2025

Ford announced in May that Peel Region would be dissolved in January 2025 through the Hazel McCallion Act, after the former mayor who served Mississauga for 36 years. McCallion died in January at the age of 101.

Crombie said proceeding with dissolution would honour McCallion because the late mayor wanted it to happen.

"The Premier promised Hazel he'd get it done, and he did, passing the Hazel McCallion Act, 2023 in her honour earlier this year," Crombie said. "Let's honour Hazel's legacy by finishing what we've set out to do."

The legislation would enable the province to dissolve the region, turning the cities of Mississauga and Brampton and the town of Caledon into independent municipalities.

The transition board, made up of five people, was appointed to make recommendations to the Ontario ministry of municipal affairs and housing. The board was expected to recommend how to proceed with services currently provided by the regional government.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said on Tuesday that she has heard the report that the government might rethink its dissolution plans.

"This makes me happy," Stiles told reporters. "I think it's a bad deal. I think it's a bad deal that was hatched behind closed doors between Bonnie Crombie and Doug Ford and a lot of people's concerns were left out."

Stiles said the province might back away because it's becoming clearer that dissolution might lead to massive tax increases while municipal services might be lost, adding that she hopes the province will reverse its course now.

Minister won't confirm government's next steps

Paul Calandra, Ontario minister of municipal affairs and housing, was asked about the possible impact of the dissolution on Brampton's taxes during question period at Queen's Park on Tuesday.

"I can say this: The government is continuously focused on reducing taxes, building more homes. It has been at the core of what we have been doing since 2018. We will certainly never allow a community to raise taxes so that the people in that community can't afford to live there," Calandra said.

Ont. Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra, says he’s confident that the new accountability and oversight measures will fix problems in long-term care.
Ont. Minister of Long-Term Care, Paul Calandra, says he’s confident that the new accountability and oversight measures will fix problems in long-term care.

Paul Calandra, Ontario minister of municipal affairs and housing, says of the possible impact of dissolution: 'We will certainly never allow a community to raise taxes so that the people in that community can't afford to live there.' (Albert Leung/CBC)

In a statement later that day, Calandra's acting press secretary Alexandru Cioban said the transition board continues to work with the region and individual municipalities.

"As we've always said, this work must ensure that we are protecting the financial sustainability of these municipalities in a fair and equal manner while ensuring the continuation of high-quality services for taxpayers and improving the efficiency of local governments," Cioban said.

"Our focus must remain on doing everything we can to meet our ambitious goal of building at least 1.5 million homes by 2031."

Calandra would not confirm in a scrum late Tuesday afternoon if the province is going to reverse its decision to dissolve Peel.