The Town of Caledon has been shaken by news of possible reduction of the municipality’s representation at the Regional table.
Regional Council has held a meeting to discuss a variety of topics, including a proposed bylaw that would subtract two members from Caledon from Regional Council.
Regional Council was composed of 24 members of the three included municipalities of Caledon, Brampton and Mississauga in 2005. Mississauga at 12 members, Brampton at seven and Caledon at five.
In 2015, the idea of Brampton receiving more seats at Regional Council was introduced, but Council decided to keep the numbers the way they were for the 2014 election, and to report back the next year in-regards to the 2018 election.
As time carried on, in 2016 Caledon supported the increase of representatives for Brampton but refused to allow it to impact the number of Caledon representatives.
Regional Council sent a letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs requesting the number of seats be increased from 24 to 32 but this was not approved due to the lack of support from Mississauga.
The conversation was deferred numerous times until they were informed that a decision was to be made by December 31, in order for the composition to come into effect for the following term of Council in 2022.
Regional Council adopted a resolution on November 26 with the intention of passing a bylaw to change the number of members for Brampton and Caledon, while Mississauga’s numbers remain, maintaining the overall count of 24 members.
The proposed bylaw states to “change the number of its members that represent the City of Brampton and the Town of Caledon by increasing the number representing Brampton by 2 to 9 members and decreasing the number representing Caledon by 2 to 3 members to be effective for purposes of the municipal election to be held in October 2022 and for purposes of the composition of the Council for the term of office to result from that election; and to provide that the 2 additional members representing Brampton be selected by the Brampton City Council from among City Councillors to represent Brampton on Council for a full four-year term.”
Members of Caledon Council have expressed anger with the move.
An emergency Town Council meeting was organized on Monday, November 30 to allow the public and Council to discuss the matter.
Mayor Allan Thompson opened with strong words regarding the issue.
“It was a backroom politicking at its worst for the sole intent of reducing Caledon’s ability to represent our residents in all matters related to the Region of Peel. In my 17 years of serving as an elected official, I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “There was no public consultation, no advanced conversation, or respect of dialogue, no engagement or consultation with staff.”
He added, “Mississauga and Brampton used their already significant majority on Regional Council to undermine and frustrate the process.”
Brampton council came forward to Regional Council where all Councillors unanimously agreed to seek support regarding the motion in which all Brampton Councillors would sit at the Regional Council table, in the perspective of population by representation.
“We are big believers of representation by population,” commented Mayor of Brampton Patrick Brown. “We hope there can be change in the right direction.”
But, what about Caledon?
Caledon Councillors had a major issue with deciding on the motion over representation by population due to the rural nature of Caledon, and with growth supposed to continue to rapidly increase by 2041.
By reducing Caledon representation from five to three councillors, Caledon Council is concerned about the level of responsibility and focus the three Councillors will have representing all of Caledon.
“If you really are talking about three members of Council for Regional Council for Caledon, I think that ends up with two wards at 189 square kilometres; you’d have a difficult time even seeing your constituents,” said Ward 1 Regional Councillor Ian Sinclair. “There are other aspects, and I think it needs more discussion.”
Ward 3 and 4 Regional Councillor Jennifer Innis attempted to defer the conversation until this week’s meeting on December 3 in order to make the matters public, as well as to include public engagement and understanding for Caledon residents. But this was not supported by other Councillors, including Ward 5 Regional Councillor Annette Groves.
Several residents delegated to Caledon Council on November 30 to express their disappointment with decisions made at Regional Council, as well as the last-minute addition of the correspondence on the agenda followed by the lack of support from fellow Councillors.
“This should not be happening. We should be standing at our five and that’s it,” said local resident Sherry Brioschi. “If we have to go down to four or three, then I would hope that Council is going to keep our area councillors because…the pressure that is going to be put onto our regional councillors is going to be insane.”
Caledon concludes 56 per cent of the land mass in Peel region and accounts for the prime agricultural land as well as the headwaters watershed. The Town of Caledon’s representation is for the smaller, communities, agricultural lands, greenspaces and natural heritage within the region.
“As we grow, our community deserves our voice on Regional Council to get stronger not weaker,” said Thompson. “Demands are increasing across the region and every community in Peel should be properly represented. That’s what we expect and what we will fight for.”
Regional Council will be holding a public meeting for further discussion with public engagement on December 17 at 9:30 a.m.
Alyssa Parkhill, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Caledon Citizen