There has been a lot of discussion recently about the City of Mississauga wanting to separate from the Region of Peel as the Province of Ontario (Queen’s Park) is currently reviewing the operation of its Regional Municipalities.
While on the surface it sounds easy for Mississauga to leave the Region of Peel, as the City only receives half of the seats on regional council, yet has the majority of the region’s population (62%), and provides a majority of the revenue it receives from property taxes (66%), it would likely not be an easy situation to accomplish. Just looking at what is occurring in the United Kingdom over Brexit is an example of how this could become very complicated very quickly.
I have a suggestion to fix the Region of Peel’s governance, but would result in the City of Mississauga remaining in the Region: I would change the composition of the Regional Council to have 25 seats that would be distributed based on population, plus the three Mayors!
Currently, the council is made up of a Chairman who is elected by Regional Council, plus 24 members – 12 members from the City of Mississauga, seven from the City of Brampton, and five from the Town of Caledon. Each councillor from Mississauga, plus the Mayor, is automatically also a Regional Councillor from Mississauga. Brampton has five councillors, but elects a regional councillor as a separate position, as does Caledon – although Caledon elects four regional councillors and the Mayor is also a member.
As Brampton and Caledon already have elections for Regional Councillor, this would not result in a huge change. Also, I would either have the Regional Chairman elected on a Region wide vote (as proposed by the previous Liberal Government, but removed by the current Progressive Conservative Government), or I would add one more council seat and then allow the members to elect a Chairman from amongst themselves. The only major change would be for Mississauga as their city councillors are also the regional councillors and this practice would end.
The changes there would be made can be summed up as follows:
- 25 councillors elected to the Regional Council. Each regional ward would be based on population – so Mississauga would likely end up with an additional councillor or two.
- The number of regional councillors, and where their wards are located, can change over time as the population of Peel Region increases.
- Regional Council elections would take place at the same time as the municipal elections.
- The Regional Chairman would be elected by Regional Council at their first meeting following an election. The Chairman would be a member of Council, and could be removed by Council if they wish to change the Chairman.
- The Mayors of Caledon, Brampton, and Mississauga would all be ex-officio members of Regional Council, with full rights of membership. This means that each municipal council would still have a direct link/representation with Regional Council as the Mayors could advocate for their respective council.
- The Peel of Region would still exist.
- Mississauga would not have to go through a difficult separation from the Region of Peel, but its concerns should be better addressed as the council’s representation would be based on population, thus giving Mississauga most of the council seats.
- Mississauga’s councillors could then focus only on Mississauga while the new Regional Councillors representing Mississauga could deal only with representing Mississauga’s issues at Regional Council.
- The costs of any changes would be marginal. In Mississauga, city councillors already receive one paycheque for being on city council and another one for being a regional councillor. The second paycheque would go to the new regional members instead.
Currently, the Region of Peel provides many services, including the following:
- Education through the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board. But the school boards are technically independent of the Region as Regional Council does not operate either school board.
- Peel Health Services: paramedics and long-term care facilities.
- Public Housing.
- Peel Regional Police. The local police force – although the OPP takes care of most of the 400 series highways.
- Public Works: Transhelp, Regional Road maintenance and upkeep, water and wastewater systems, and garbage disposal.
- Social Services: child care centres, and Ontario Works.
All of the services above would have to be handled by the City of Mississauga on its own should the city separate from the region or an agreement would have to be made to cover the Region providing those services, but could lead to Mississauga having less day-to-day say in how those services provided as the city would no longer be part of Peel Region.
In conclusion, at the end of the day I believe that the City of Mississauga should remain part of the Region of Peel, but that the Region’s Council be elected based on the total population of the Region and with the exception of the three Mayors should not consist of anyone sitting on the council of one of its municipal members. And the new Council should be comprised of at least 25 council seats. This would provide the City of Mississauga with more say over what occurs (as it would receive the majority of seats as it has the majority of the Region’s population) but allows the composition to change based on changes in the population.