Yesterday, Ontario announced its intent to dissolve the Regional Municipality of Peel. This is welcome news for BBOT members that were frustrated with the current two-tier system. Duplication, particularly in planning at both levels, slowed development approvals and added costs for businesses. In its recent Business Confidence Index survey, only 1 in 5 business respondents felt well-informed or well-served by the two-tier system. On behalf of Brampton business owners, the Brampton Board of Trade will monitor dissolution proceedings carefully, with two primary areas of concern:
- How will the cost of doing business be impacted?
- How will the health and well-being of their staff/workers be impacted?
At the surface, there is concern that political interests don’t always align with economic ones. BBOT will be watching very carefully how new governance is established and paid for. The official Ontario media release, states a provincial transition board are expected to make recommendations in the coming months, to be enacted on January 1, 2025.
For your benefit, we’ve prepared some preliminary thoughts on the current division of responsibilities and summarized some predictions, expectations, and questions on how things might change for our members. We will pursue responses in the coming days and months ahead. Some preliminary issues include:
- Water Utility:
- Current: The business community understands that water treatment is already an integrated utility funded by utility fees, not property tax dollars.
- Watch for: A new utility governing board composed of private individuals with the necessary skills is anticipated.
- Questions: Who currently owns the utility asset, and what is its value? How might a sale of the utility help Brampton? How might water rates change in the future?
2. Debt Re-apportionment
- Current: The Region of Peel has accumulated $1.4 billion in net outstanding debt for growth-related infrastructure.
- Watch for: Efforts will be made to apportion the debt to match ownership of assets, with the assumption that the province will not cover the debt.
- Question: Who will take on the debt, and will $1.4 billion be the total debt of Peel Region at January 1, 2025?
3. Roads and Bridges:
- Current: Concerns exist regarding the control, funding, maintenance, repair, and construction of regional and municipal roads.
- Watch for: Responsibility for regional roads will likely be reassigned to the three respective municipalities Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. Brampton faces challenges due to its rapid growth and will require funding for road expansion.
- Questions: Where will the funding come from for Brampton’s road infrastructure? Will property tax increases be expected? How will Caledon fund its roads?
4. Police and Emergency Services:
- Current: Policing and paramedics are currently regional services, while each municipality has its own fire service.
- Watch for: A new Police Service Board may be established, charging annual fees to Mississauga and Brampton. Fair and administratively efficient methods for determining each municipality’s fee should be explored. OPP and RCMP models may inform decision-making.
- Questions: How will a new Police and Emergency Services Board be constituted, and what will be the private sector’s role? How will Brampton be charged for this service?
5. Building Houses, Creating Jobs:
- Current: The business community is interested in housing affordability and job creation.
- Watch for: Municipal boundary changes could be enacted, potentially incorporating urban areas south of King Road into Brampton to better serve the housing agenda.
- Questions: What boundary changes will occur, and how will they facilitate housing and job creation?
6. Transition Process Questions:
- Transition Deadlines: Dissolution of the regional government is expected by January 1st, 2025, and the duration of transition plans and fund transfer agreements is yet to be determined.
- Financial Deadlines: Will municipalities have more than three years to square their finances, possibly extending the timeline for transfer and payback?
- Provincial Advisors: The appointment, information flow, and instructions to the transition board have yet to be clarified.
- Municipal Advisors: Brampton’s capacity to protect its interests and taxpayers may require outside experts in addition to its current staff.
No doubt assumptions, possible approaches and creative thoughts will change and be exchanged as final recommendations are developed. The Brampton Board of Trade will continue to monitor and advise the transition board to protect the interests of its members and the local economy as more details emerge.