The million dollar question everybody’s asking in the Region of Peel is this- Will Brampton and Mississauga be amalgamated in the future? This is one of the most important things to be dealt with as far as the Doug Ford Government is concerned and it involves the entire Mississauga and Brampton regions in tandem with other important municipalities in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). The provincial government has already declared that a review will be undertaken with regard to the functioning of the Ontario regional government and review details have also been obtained accordingly. This announcement was made during the sudden municipal election changes last year.
Steve Clark, the Minister for Municipal Affairs, has already stated that Ken Seiling, ex-Waterloo Regional Chair and Michael Fern, ex-deputy minister, Ontario, will be functioning as key advisors for executing a much broader analysis while offering recommendations for enhancing overall governance, delivery of services and decision-making across regional governments. This review is only for Durham, Peel, Niagara, Halton, Muskoka District, York, Oxford County, Waterloo and Simcoe County. The review will cover a thorough examination of towns and cities under these regional governments and authorities. Simcoe County was also covered on account of pressure exerted through growth of population and growing infrastructural requirements like some of the other regions.
Several regional governments in the past were created on the philosophy of the earlier Metro Toronto layout where Toronto was mapped into 6 municipalities which functioned separately. These six municipalities and Metro Toronto were fused to form the megacity of recent times by the Mike Harris government earlier. Seiling and Fern will be closely cooperating with the province for ensuring better access to municipal services while making all municipalities more business friendly along with lowering duplication and red tape for lowering overall expenses.
The amalgamation question comes up since advisors are now analysing whether the current system functions smoothly with regard to taking care of decision making, infrastructural requirements, alignment of upper-tier and lower-tier aspects based on priorities, allocating service based responsibilities and so on. The entire review procedure will cover consultations and talks with municipal authorities, councillors, local companies, the general public and stakeholder entities. Municipalities are allowed to emphasize on amalgamation for better efficiency in terms of public administration and service delivery. Bonnie Crombie, the mayor of Mississauga, has already stated that the city is looking forward to the review of regional governance although she has also emphasized on the pressing needs for reviewing the relationship of the Region and the city. Mississauga is the third biggest city in Ontario with the population already touching 800, 000. Crombie has reportedly stated that the city should now be able to control its own future as a single-tier city like other big cities in Ontario such as Hamilton, Ottawa, London and Windsor. Crombie has also stated that Mississauga is growing fast and two government levels may not be as effective. The biggest tax base is the region of Peel and hence the money of the taxpayers should naturally be directed towards the city in developing infrastructure, maintenance and other work.
The Ontario NDP has already released a statement, issuing its concerns with future amalgamation which could be pursued by the Ford Government. The regional review may be used for amalgamating municipalities and this will throw up several other aspects. Will Brampton and Mississauga merge, creating a city of giant proportions with considerable implications for the transportation, real estate and social infrastructure sectors? Will they become independent cities without the Peel Region’s umbrella over them?
Experts feel that eventually, the financial aspects will be the major driving force behind the future decision. Minister Clark has already stated that more efficiency and saving of costs is the major focus and the amalgamation may be left for the future to the cities themselves. Brampton and Mississauga may merge in case it is deemed to be cheaper from a cost perspective and more efficient in terms of governmental operations. This was the crux of the idea when the Toronto megacity concept came into being. Brampton may benefit from the amalgamation overall since there may be more economic development due to this merger and Mississauga’s heft in this department.
Another factor worth considering is the fact that Brampton is already profiting from the funding that has been allotted by the Region of Peel authorities and is building infrastructure which is leading to fast-paced real estate and commercial growth alike. This is the same benefit that is being observed in Caledon. Mississauga leaving this region will mean that funding will be lost by Brampton which is expected to contribute 64% of overall population growth by the year 2041 in Peel. However, some experts feel that Mississauga will profit more from any such amalgamation exercise.
Some other factors that are being considered by experts include the fact that the population sizes are almost the same with similar service levels in areas like Halton, Niagara, Durham and Waterloo and these should not require substantial reformation as a result. The York Region has big cities such as Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill and a population exceeding 1 million citizens. This region also has smaller towns such as Georgina, Aurora and East Gwillimbury. Developments in the York Region could thus be on similar lines as the Peel Region.
Simcoe County is a highly populated city and hence any future development here will be interesting for market watchers. Barrier is already a separate municipality and not a part of this review procedure. Bradford, Innisfil and other towns are also seeing a rapid growth in population along with other areas like Wasaga Beach, Collingwood and Springwater among others. Simcoe County’s northern areas may be divided from the fast-growing southern zone in order to manage future growth in a more efficient manner as per experts. As for the amalgamation of Mississauga and Brampton, this mega development may or may not happen eventually. It all depends on what seems suitable as a cost-saving measure and improves overall governmental efficiencies, particularly in terms of service delivery.