The Ontario government tabled legislation last week to dissolve the Regional Municipality of Peel and make Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon independent, single-tier municipalities. In the short-term. this legislation will split two of Toronto’s largest suburban communities out of a 160-year old two-tier municipal governance system – creating single-tier municipalities on par with Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and other large cities in the province. The long-term implications for municipal government in Ontario in this legislation is far more reaching. There are three things to watch for as this legislation goes into practice.
For the cities of Mississauga and Brampton, separating out of a two-tier municipal government system makes sense. Mississauga is the third-largest city in Ontario, Brampton the fourth-largest. Smaller city councils have full control over their municipal affairs, but these two still have to answer to an upper-tier municipal government: this is nonsensical. Short-term, this divorce is natural and long overdue. A point to watch is the dissolution process, which will see a five person transition board handle the details of the split, which also includes Caledon which will also stand on its own. How the junior-most partner is treated will speak volumes of the Ford Government’s process.
Included in this legislation, and important to highlight, is the province will soon name “regional facilitators” to look at Durham, Halton, Niagara, Simcoe, Waterloo, and York regions to assess if dissolving the two-tier governance system is needed. Many of the cities in the Golden Horseshoe sit on the top-25 of most populous municipalities in the province and do not have 100 per cent control of their affairs. Eliminating duplication where feasible has been a mantra of this government since 2018. Seeing how many of these six regional governments fall to the wayside, and what these city governments look like when the dust settles will show a clear blueprint for what happens next.
Municipal Affairs minister Steve Clark has framed this legislation as a way to give municipalities the power to be able to respond quickly to the housing issue. In reality, it looks like a way of setting off a new round of amalgamation, providing a template to end all two-tier government.
There are serious ramifications to two-tier governments in rural Ontario, including here in South Dundas. Can the six municipalities that comprise SDG Counties ever afford to “go it alone”? While some services like policing and housing are contracted out, can South Dundas, South Stormont, or North Dundas afford to maintain their respective portions of the SDG county road network? Will this push for more amalgamation? Eliminating an upper-tier governance model could turn instead into a move to one local regional government with no local councils. Can one regional model offer citizens from Alexandria to Iroquois and South Mountain to Lancaster the same level of service as current local municipal governments?
The move to divorce the Peel Region is just the first step in a munch longer process, one that is worth watching even from the cheap seats here in SDG.