The Ford government is considering a major policy reversal that would keep the Region of Peel intact and could see the Hazel McCallion Act revoked, Global News has learned.
Multiple sources told Global News the province’s decision to scrap the Peel Region split is set to be announced Friday, after the Ontario Legislature rises for an 11-week break.
Since the decision to split Peel Region was mandated through legislation, the government would have to table a new bill in order to repeal the original law.
At the same time, the government is also expected to reverse other decisions made by former housing minister Steve Clark before his resignation over the summer as a result of the bruising Greenbelt scandal.
Sources said some Minister’s Zoning Orders and portions of the controversial Bill 23 — which impacted a municipality’s ability to charge fees for developments — are on the chopping block.
The move fulfilled a long-held ambition of former Mississauga mayor and Doug Ford confidant Hazel McCallion and sparked complicated discussions in the region about who should pay for what.
Mississauga mayor — and now Liberal leader — Bonnie Crombie said Ford had discussed the promise to split Peel Region with McCallion in her “final days.”
“She kept saying to me, ‘I’m talking to the premier about it, Bonnie, don’t you worry, I’m going to get a promise from him,'” she said.
A five-person transition board was created to stick-handle the move, including deciding which services would be split and which might remain together.
The region is responsible for a large number of local amenities, including police, paramedics, wastewater and garbage collection.
Less than a year after announcing the move, however, the province is set to reverse it, sources told Global News.
The leadup to the planned announcement has been marked by rumour and confusion amongst many at both the provincial and municipal levels.
Asked about it on Tuesday, Housing Minister Paul Calandra said he had no information to share. Crombie, meanwhile, said she had pushed for the city to split from the region.
“The premier and I don’t agree on a lot of things, but we do agree on dissolution of the Region of Peel,” Crombie said at Queen’s Park when a potential reversal was rumoured but not confirmed.
“He has made it his mandate to cut red tape and eliminate duplication and all those things… this is precisely what the dissolution of Peel does.”
The decision to reverse the dissolution comes with work on the split already underway.
Between November and March, the province’s transition board was set to hold roughly 70 meetings lasting around 1.5 hours each to thrash out the details.
The meetings were to involve all three municipalities and discuss 12 separate service areas that would either be split up or maintained under some kind of sharing agreement.
The board had not yet hired its own staff to help work on the details of the plan and was relying on regional bureaucrats to help with calculations and data processing, regional staff said.
The region said in late November that the board had not hired any of its own consultants, though plans were underway to bring them on board.
Since the process of dissolution began, the Region of Peel said almost 300 staff had left amidst the uncertainty, including the treasurer, director of transportation and a number of staff in the planning department.
It is unclear how many, if any, of those staff would return.