Region demands PCs pay back $4.2M for Transition Board formed to study Ford’s abandoned Peel dissolution plan

Since committing to break up the Region of Peel a year ago, Premier Doug Ford and his PC government have marketed the upper-tier municipality’s transition as “a plan that will ensure fairness and stability for the residents of Peel.”

What Ford did, caused the opposite.

After Bonnie Crombie won the Ontario Liberal leadership her years-long effort to help Mississauga gain its independence was wiped away by her opponent in the next provincial election.

Following a year of chaos that saw hundreds of regional staff depart due to the lack of employment security, thanks to Ford’s ill-advised timeline, he abandoned his pledge to dissolve the upper tier government, but directed his “Transition Board” to switch gears.

It would instead look for ways to transition certain departments to the three lower-tier municipalities— Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon—to uphold part of his vow to make local government fairer to all taxpayers in Peel.

But, in an unexpected move, the PCs recently said the onus lies with the Region of Peel to foot the $1.5 million bill for the costs associated with the provincially-appointed Transition Board.

It is now directing the dramatic reduction of regional governance.

In January the Province said it would be reconfiguring the mandate of the Transition Board to “focus on making local government in Peel Region more efficient and responsive to the needs of residents and taxpayers.”

A letter from Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra said the Board would be reviewing four Regional services “key to building homes and housing-enabling infrastructure.” It set in motion the process to hand over certain key services currently overseen by the Region, including land use planning, waste management, major roads, water and wastewater and download them onto Peel’s three lower-tier municipalities.

During the December announcement that effectively nixed the breakup of Peel Region, the PCs said the move to reverse the separation would “keep costs down for taxpayers.

Calandra said the new approach would “provide certainty and stability for taxpayers” in Peel “while continuing the province’s efforts to provide the best value for taxpayers.”

The move to burden the Region with costs associated with the PCs’ Transition Board is now being questioned by Peel councillors who view the decision as contrary to the provincial government’s claims of respecting the region’s taxpayers.

In response to the PC move, and declaring “the residents of Peel Region expect transparency for every local tax dollar spent by the Region,” Regional Council passed a motion during a May 9th meeting requesting the Province fully fund the costs associated with the work of the Transition Board. The motion adds, “no other Regional Governance review exercise is being funded by the Regional Government under review”, requests the Transition Board “provide a complete and detailed breakdown of [the] invoices” and that the Board “provide information on third-party consultants they have hired and the associated costs.”

A press release following the May 9th meeting said the motion, forwarded by Brampton Councillor Gurpartap Singh Toor, “highlights the need for clarity and responsible use of public funds.” Not only has the Transition Board billed the Region $1.5 million in two separate invoices for its work up until March 15th of this year, but the Region has also incurred an additional $2.7 million in costs to address the abandoned Bill 112 (the Hazel McCallion Act to dissolve Peel Region) including “maintaining business continuity, and supporting the work of the Provincial Transition Team.”

“The apparent disparity in funding approaches for regional governance reviews across Ontario is of significant concern,” a statement from Regional Chair Nando Iannicca read. “While Peel Region is required to fund its transition process, other regions benefit from a provincially funded public consultation process via the Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy.”

The new mandate of the Transition Board is meant to focus on the building of homes in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon to increase housing supply; reduce duplication and remove layers of bureaucracy from the administration of services; ensure the continuity of services for local residents; and ensure financial sustainability and high-quality services delivered in an efficient manner.

The Board was meant to develop next steps and make proposed recommendations by the spring — these recommendations have not been made public yet — for the Minister’s consideration. Since then, the Board has been responsible for providing recommendations on the transfer of each of the services currently provided by the Region, to the three lower-tier municipalities.

“The government awaits the final recommendation on how the transfer of public works services (land use planning, water and wastewater, roads, stormwater, and waste management) from Peel Region can benefit residents and taxpayers in the region,” a spokesperson from the Minister’s office said in an email to The Pointer.

The spokesperson did not address the possibility of the PC government reconsidering the funding responsibility for the Transition Board.


Twitter: @mcpaigepeacock

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Paige Peacock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer