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Why some services may continue to be shared after Peel Region divorce

Peel Region is headed for a divorce, but the fate of the services it administers remains unclear, with at least one expert predicting a “dog’s breakfast” scenario rather than a “seamless” split.

Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs Steve Clark tabled legislation at Queen’s Park on Thursday, which sets the stage for Mississauga, Caledon and Brampton to become independent cities by 2025.

However, details are scarce on what precisely that means and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has already hinted that some services, like Peel Regional Police, could “remain in tact” albeit with a different funding model.

“There will be some changes but I hope that they are behind the scenes and behind the curtains and that the changes are seamless to the residents other than I hope, in the long term, there is evidence that this was beneficial on their tax bills,” Crombie said Thursday.

The Ford government has said that it will appoint a five-member panel to help oversee the dissolution of Peel Region’s assets and ensure the process is “fair and balanced.”

Financing is likely to be one of the biggest sticking points, with Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown demanding that his city be “made whole” for the $1 billion in investments that he says his taxpayers have made in shared infrastructure, like the Peel Regional Police Headquarters on Mississauga Road.

Crombie, for her part, has accused Brown of “hyperbole” and has said that, if anything, Mississauga taxpayers have been left on the hook for the costs related to supporting growth in Brampton.

“I think we're into a very difficult transition period and it remains to be seen whether what comes out at the end is going to be as streamlined and I'll call it seamless as what we now have, or a bit of a dog's breakfast,” Myer Siemiatycki, who is a professor emeritus at Toronto Metropolitan University, told this week. “Bottom line, I don't think we're headed into true independence of three cities. I think, if anything, we’re headed for sovereignty-association with that underlining of the word association.”

Siemiatycki said that there was a reason why regional governments were created in places like Peel in the first place and that reason “has not disappeared,” despite significant population growth.

He said that while some services could theoretically be delivered at more localized levels post-divorce, others will undoubtedly be much more cost-effective if costs continue to be shared between the taxpayers of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga.

“There is such a thing as economies of scale,” he said. “So you have to ask yourself, are we now going to have three police departments? Are we now going to have three health departments and three medical officers of health? Are we now going to have three water purification and distribution operations going? It kind of boggles the mind, the amount of real tinkering that's going to have to be done here. And I think at the end of the day, the truth is we're going to end up with something with similar mechanisms in place as what we're now ditching but not as efficient and not as cost-effective.”

Here is a closer look at what Peel’s divorce could mean for the services provided to its 1.5 million residents:

Emergency services

Crombie has already said that services like Peel Regional Police and Peel Regional Paramedic Services should remain “in tact.” But she has called for changes to the funding model. She told reporters on Thursday that she would like to see Peel Regional Police move to a “pay for service” model similar to the way the Ontario Provincial Police operates. Currently, Peel Regional Police’s $524 million budget is covered by the Region of Peel, with Mississauga picking up approximately 60 per cent of the cost.

“Because we have a higher population, we pay more to fund Peel Regional Police. So by definition, we are paying for the policing needs of Brampton and that will have to change,” Crombie said on Thursday.

Garbage collection and water

Peel Region currently provides waste management services for Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon at a cost of approximately $130 million per year and water and wastewater services at a cost of about $488 million a year. Crombie said on Thursday that she anticipates a “smooth transition” in which those services continue to be delivered in a similar fashion to how they are now but said that it “might be delivered by an independent third-party utility entity run by an outside board.”

“It would be a user-pay service,” she said. “Things will be much more streamlined.”

Other services

Peel Region is currently responsible for everything from city planning, to maintaining road infrastructure and operating five long-term care homes. While it is impossible to say how all of those responsibilities will be divided up, Siemiatycki said that he expects “some regional wide mechanisms of coordination, cooperation, and even shared financing,” especially given the tight timeline to negotiate a split.

But that, he says, will be far from a perfect system.

“Peel Regional Council is an elected democratic body. If you have concerns or criticisms of the decisions they've made, you go to Peel Regional Council like you would go to any elected government body and you complain and you speak your piece and people who have to come back for re-election are going to have to think about the issues you've raise,” he said. “What is now likely to become the new coordinating mechanisms are what's referred to as special purpose bodies, commissions of water, commissions of police, commissions of public health. But those are not going to be run by elected individuals. They're going to be run by appointed individuals and it might be much harder for the public to have an input and a voice.” Top Stories

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