Ford accuses NDP of ‘gutter politics’
Premier questioned about breaking his deathbed promise to McCallion to dissolve Peel Region
A furious Premier Doug Ford accused the New Democrats of “gutter politics” after they questioned him about breaking his deathbed promise to former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion that he would dissolve Peel Region.
The Star revealed Tuesday that Ford is set to cancel his plan to eliminate the regional government, which would have allowed Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon to become stand-alone municipalities, amid concerns taxes could rise and delivery of services may worsen.
NDP MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) chided the premier in the legislature Wednesday about reneging on the pledge “he made to mayor McCallion as she was dying ” in January at age 101.
“The premier himself made this promise to the former mayor of Mississauga. In fact, he named the legislation after her, the Hazel McCallion Act. Now we know that the government has seen the numbers — perhaps for the first time — and are looking to reverse this decision,” said Fife.
“That’s about as low as you can get,” shot back a seething Ford, who was with McCallion hours before she died. “That’s gutter politics. That’s disgusting.”
Outside the legislature, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra insisted “there is no dissolution of Peel at this point.”
“The dissolution of Peel wasn’t scheduled to take place until 2025. We’re doing a lot of due diligence to see how it would be done, what the cost would be, but I’ve made no decision on that yet,” he said.
Since taking over from ex-minister Steve Clark, who resigned three months ago in the wake of the Progressive Conservatives’ $8.28billion Greenbelt land swap scandal now under investigation by the RCMP, Calandra has been undoing many of his predecessor’s decisions.
The Tories have axed the Greenbelt development scheme, reversed unilateral changes to city plans that rezoned land for housing in a dozen municipalities, and are reviewing minister’s zoning orders (MZOs) by Clark that overrode local planning decisions.
Senior government sources, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations, said the Tories are now concerned about figures that Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown cited last week suggesting property taxes there might jump by an additional $1.3 billion over a decade due to dissolution.
Calandra echoed that sentiment Wednesday.
“There is no way that … this government would ever allow property taxpayers to shoulder a burden that they couldn’t afford,” the minister said firmly.
But Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who was elected Liberal leader on Saturday, said “Brown’s desperate political attempts to derail a process that is already well underway” should not be allowed to succeed.
“He spuriously claimed that dissolution could cost taxpayers an extra $1.3 billion over 10 years,” Crombie said in an op-ed piece submitted to the Star and other newspapers.
“It’s no secret that the premier and I don’t always see eye to eye, but if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that local government needs to be efficient and effective. We need to weed out waste, duplication and red tape at every opportunity,” she said, noting Mississauga taxpayers cover 60 per cent of Peel’s costs and spend $84 million annually to subsidize services in Brampton and Caledon.
“That’s why I’ve long advocated for an independent Mississauga, picking up the torch from the late Hazel McCallion. As we know, Hazel always did her homework and she had the premier’s ear even in her final days. He promised her he’d get it done, and he did, passing the Hazel McCallion Act in her honour earlier this year.”
Crombie, who will resign as mayor after completing the city and Peel budgets in January, urged Ford and Calandra to keep the pledge.
But Caledon Mayor Annette Groves argued Tuesday that “it would be encouraging if the province rethought the dissolution of Peel Region.”
Dismantling Peel, which has been called for since the mid-1970s, is being looked at by a five-member panel appointed by Ford last summer. That panel is trying to figure out how to deliver policing, garbage collection, roadworks, water treatment, public health and social services in the three cities and unwind a 24-member regional council.
Mindful that some would question his breaking a promise to McCallion, Ford moved to remind people what his government has done for the region since taking office in 2018.
“Why would the people in Peel trust us? Well, I’ll tell you a couple reasons why they could trust us: We’ve saved the Stellantis plant. The people of Brampton now get a university that they never had before to create more doctors into the system,” the premier said.
“The people of Mississauga, they’re seeing the great Hazel McCallion Line right across the Peel Region. They’ve seen tremendous growth they’ve never seen before in Peel Region. We’re supporting them, making sure that they have more commercial, industrial and housing for people in Peel,” he said. “I could go on and on … if I had half an hour, I’d keep going, listing them all off.”
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited