Should Mississauga Be Electing the Region of Peel Chair?

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If you thought sitting through an election campaign for the next mayor of Mississauga was grueling enough, how about a campaign for the next Super Mayor of Peel Region?

Okay, that's not what the position actually is. It's not even a new position. The Region of Peel has always had a chairman who heads the regional council and serves as the CEO of the second largest upper tier municipality in Ontario. What is different is that position may go from being an appointed post to an elected one.

Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Bill Mauro introduced legislationto have Regional Chairs in upper tier municipalities such as Peel, York, and Niagara Region be directly elected by voters. Currently, only Halton, Durham and Waterloo Regions have an elected chair. This legislation will have the changes ready by the time the 2018 municipal election rolls around.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who has been pushing to get Mississauga out of Peel Region, obviously was not happy with this legislation. Tweeting out that this is a solution looking for a problem, Crombie said, "we need to know whether or not there will be increased costs to taxpayers to administer the election process for a directly elected regional chair and how much staffing and administrative costs will increase to support someone representing well over 1 million people at Peel council."

Mayor Crombie also suggested the new law may affect Mississauga's decision to remain in Peel.

As for Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, she couldn't be happier, as ths is something she’s supported for some time. Also, I think she may have been embarrassed at how Team Brampton got flummoxed by the selection of Frank Dale over former regional councillor (and Brampton resident) John Sanderson.

How would this affect Mississauga's campaign to get out of Peel Region, as Mayor Crombie mentioned? Instead of continuing to push for separation from Peel, and if the chair is now elected, Crombie and her fellow councillors could possibly put their heft behind a Mississauga resident to run for the position. However, I don’t think that person would be the current Peel Region Chair and former Mississauga councillor, Frank Dale. Putting aside Dale's recent recovery from health issues, Chairman Dale doesn't seem to have inspired much confidence and unity with his colleagues. The fact that Mississauga is looking to get out of Peel Region is an indication that he's had trouble corralling dissent within his ranks and, even if the position was still appointed, may not get another term.

What about Caledon? If the Peel Region's chair is going to be directly elected, then the chances of Caledon's votes managing to have weight against the votes from Brampton and Mississauga would be extremely diluted. Former chair Emil Kolb was a former Caledon mayor; I doubt that he would have been selected by all of Peel's voters, so lucky for him he was selected by his fellow regional councillors. No word yet from Caledon officials on their position regarding the new legislation, but if they used the logic I just outlined they would probably not be as enthused either.

Logistically, this could be a potential nightmare waiting to happen for election workers, and the array of political operators on the different candidates' campaigns. It was difficult enough running an actual mayoral campaign across a vast city like Mississauga. To run one across the entire Peel Region, a candidate has to run a campaign, raise money, and organize outreach across the region of 1.6 million people and appeal to the different issues affecting a rapidly urbanizing Mississauga and Brampton and a rural town like Caledon. Another thing is power dynamics; who represents Mississauga or Brampton? Is it the mayor of the city, or the regional chair who now has hundreds of thousands of voters who gave him or her a mandate?

I think an elected chair works well in Waterloo, Halton and Durham region because its component municipalities are more or less the same size and are dealing with the same priorities. Peel has Brampton, which is figuring out how to control growth (because they still have room to grow), Mississauga (which is trying to densify after years of suburban sprawl), and Caledon (which is dealing with completely different issues altogether). Can an elected regional chair manage to figure out how to deal with all those conflicting issues and reach a compromise? It would take someone of enormous political skill to achieve that.

What do you think? Do you want to vote for a Regional Chair of Peel, or should we keep letting our elected local leaders make the selection?

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