Peel staff would cheer reversal
Regional dissolution plan has created a mass exodus and service shortages
The year of uncertainty continues in Peel Region.
And caught in the middle of the province’s potential flip-flop over the dissolution of the region are thousands of municipal employees who say the Ford government’s decisions have led to an increase in anxiety, a massive staff exodus and challenges in hiring for essential services roles such as nursing and paramedics.
“Anxiety levels are so high that people are leaving, because in the end these members have to put food on the table and they want stability,” said Salil Aria, CUPE 966 president, who represents 2,500 unionized employees at Peel Region.
“There’s a real breakdown happening in the region. And with all this … workforce leaving, I don’t know how the individual municipalities will be able to carry these services on if we are to separate.”
In May, the province hastily announced — with little consultation — that it had decided to dissolve the upper-tier Regional Municipality of Peel by January 2025 and create three stand-alone cities of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.
In June, Queen’s Park passed the Hazel McCallion Act, in honour of the former Mississauga mayor, who had pushed for the city’s independence. The city has appointed a transition team to help the three cities through the process.
This week, the Star was the first to report that the Doug Ford government was reconsidering the dissolution of the region amidst concerns taxes would significantly increase in all three municipalities and that municipal services could worsen.
Aria said employees would “celebrate” if a reversal decision was made. According to one source, 600 municipal employees have already left the region.
Dave Wakely, president of Peel Paramedic Union OPSEU 277, says it’s been difficult to hire new paramedics and fill vacancies.
But he says the most difficult thing has been not knowing what plans are for the paramedic service’s future.
For now, regional staff say, it’s business as usual since “no information pertaining to a reversal of Peel’s dissolution has been communicated … from the transition board or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing,” said a spokesperson.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who has been a vocal critic of the dissolution decision since it was announced in May, produced updated numbers last week that claim the move could lead to a $1.3-billion increase in operating costs for all three cities over the next 10 years.
“As I have told the province, it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing. And blowing up Peel Region was the wrong thing. It would cost more. It would diminish service levels.”
Caledon Mayor Annette Groves, who had appeared supportive of the dissolution in May, has had a change of heart given the financial uncertainty for the town.
“Our housing pledge is to build 13,000 housing units. It all costs money and we don’t know how the dissolution would impact our ability to deliver those homes,” she said, adding that new servicing requirements is estimated to cost the town around $6 billion.
She believes Ford’s potential reversal isn’t political or influenced by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie’s new role as Liberal party leader, but is a sign the government is “listening to concerns of those in the region.”
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Crombie said the city was still pushing for independence and that a reversal would be a “waste of time and resources.”
She questioned the numbers Brown has put forward — which have appeared to influence the premier.
“I ask the premier and minister to not make any rash decisions based on faulty numbers in a report that no one has seen. Taxpayers expect us to make transparent, evidencebased decisions,” said Crombie.
Crombie said that as long as the legislation remains intact, Mississauga will continue to work with the transition board towards independence.
“We need certainty for the thousands of staff at Peel Region. They deserve answers and they deserve them immediately.”
Anxiety levels are so high that people are leaving, because in the end these members have to put food on the table and they want stability.
SALIL ARIA CUPE 966 PRESIDENT
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited