It is going to take more than grassroots love to stop Doug Ford from doing whatever he wants to do with the Regions

By Pepper Parr

May 22nd, 2023



Doug Ford is at it again. He seems to have this fixation on what the municipal level of government is all about. He continues to meddle and muddle until he finds something that suits his fancy. In the process, he creates great churn and turmoil in all levels of government below the province.

The government introduced legislation on Thursday dubbed the “Hazel McCallion Act” to dissolve Peel Region and have the three municipalities stand on their own starting Jan. 1, 2025.
Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon will be ‘peeled’ apart in under two years — and six other regions have been put on notice that they could be next.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said he was taking “decisive action” to help the municipalities build more homes.
Ontario also said it will appoint “regional facilitators” in the coming weeks for the upper-tier municipalities of Durham, Halton, Niagara, Simcoe, Waterloo and York. Their job will be to find out whether the municipalities that make up those regions are able to stand on their own.

The facilitators were initially announced in November with the goal of looking into whether the regions should get strong mayor powers, and to advise on “the best mix of roles and responsibilities between upper and lower-tier municipalities” for tackling the housing crisis.

Simcoe, which was initially left off the list, was added on Thursday.

Now, the government is explicitly saying the D-word – dissolution!

“These facilitators will be tasked with reviewing whether the upper-tier government continues to be relevant to the needs of its communities or whether the lower-tier municipalities are mature enough to pursue dissolution,” reads the Thursday release.

It’s still unclear who the facilitators will be.

“Details regarding the facilitators and the timing of their appointment are under development and we will have more to share on that soon,” Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) spokesperson Melissa Diakoumeas said in an email.

None of the municipalities provided comment about their potential dissolution by press time.

There’s nothing in the new legislation about expanding any municipal boundaries, as the government has been wont to do, sometimes without warning. Of course, the facilitators could make that recommendation; or the government could decide to do it at any time.

Clark was asked on Thursday why Simcoe was added to the list.   “I think we’ve always had that discussion, given the high growth pressures in Simcoe County,” he said. “Servicing is obviously an issue.”

Regional Chair Gary Carr, speaking at the Millcroft resident’s meeting said that there were huge changes coming to the Region. At the time Chair Carr didn’t elaborate – now we know what he was talking about.

The up-to-five-person transition board that will oversee Peel Region’s breakup has a slew of issues that will have to be sorted out — like the future of municipal taxes, finances, regional staff, conservation authorities, and the Peel Region Police — by 2025.

The transition board will also have the power to ban the municipalities from doing things it deems would hurt the dissolution. If the municipalities ignore the board, the legislation gives power to Clark to step in and manage their affairs directly.

The Ford government will appoint the panel’s members sometime this year — and the municipalities will foot the bill, according to the legislation.

We Love Burlington fought the good fight back in 2018-19 – the report that was to be released has yet to see the light of day. The government is in the process of taking another crack at changing the role that Regions play in the building of the residential housing the city has pledged to deliver.

That same process will be used when the province decides to take another look at how Halton operates. This might revive the “We Love Burlington” advocacy group.

In 2018/19, the newly elected PC Government undertook a review of regional governments with specific emphasis on achieving economies of scale, reduction of red tape and operating efficiencies through amalgamation.

The direction was directly opposite that announced on Thursday; it was to assimilate specific lower tier municipalities into the upper tier government.

It projected multiple benefits through consolidating services at the regional level and dramatically reforming or eliminating local governments.

Former Waterloo chair Ken Seiling, right, and former deputy minister Michael Fenn (who was once a General Manager with the City of Burlington) were tasked with the review to be prepared and reported by early summer of 2019. The report they submitted was never released to the public.

There were specific target regions – Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, Oxford County, the County of Simcoe and their lower-tier municipalities. Former Waterloo chair Ken Seiling and former deputy minister Michael Fenn were tasked with the review to be prepared and reported by early summer of 2019.

Grass roots organizations quickly sprouted in Oakville and Burlington (the “We Loves”) to fight amalgamation and counter the perceived threat to local decision-making and the expression of local voice. The anti-amalgamation campaign was short but relatively intense and well-co-ordinates. Although public opinion seemed to be split in other regions, Halton presented a common face and championed preserving local autonomy. What started with much fanfare and bluster ended quietly in late June 2019 when the Ford Government announced that they would receive the report but neither publish nor act on its recommendations.

So, today it’s “déjà vu all over again” but in reverse with the regional governments in danger of dissolution, of being “peeled back”. This is not a victory for local autonomy and the integrity of local governance and decision-making. Municipalities, such as Burlington, are still the creation of the Province and very much subject to its control and direction.
Indeed, early messaging from Queen’s Park is that an even tighter choke will be placed around the lower tier neck.

Some of these municipalities, such as Burlington, may not recognize themselves when this is through.

Ironically, those who founded the 2019 We Love Burlington campaign would find it difficult to pose the same arguments of local governance integrity and transparency today.

Related news story:

Opinion piece on the changes in Regional government.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 comments to It is going to take more than grassroots love to stop Doug Ford from doing whatever he wants to do with the Regions

  • Joe Gaetan

    Facilitators? Hey we only facilitated the amalgamation of Burlington, Oakville and Milton into what will now be called Nassagaweya. You guys did the rest.

  • Rick Law

    Folks, have I got a deal for you. It;s a slightly used Ford Fiasco. Only a few thousand KMs on the dial. A bit of rust here and there and only turns right. Occasionally goes into reverse gear without warning. Going cheap, folks. Don’t miss out.