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Transition board invoices Region of Peel $1.5M for work to date on watered-down split

Click to play video: 'Ford government continues to face questions over Peel dissolution backtrack'
Ford government continues to face questions over Peel dissolution backtrack
RELATED: Premier Doug Ford faced questions Thursday over his decision to backtrack the dissolution of Peel Region. Global’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello reports – Dec 14, 2023

The Ford government is facing new questions over its partially-reversed plan to split the Region of Peel as it emerges local property taxpayers will be asked to swallow the million-dollar-plus tab for a provincially-appointed transition board.

An internal email sent by the Region of Peel’s top bureaucrat and obtained by Global News shows the local government has been sent invoices amounting to $1.5 million for work completed by the Peel Transition Board.

The local government is funded by property taxes from residents in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga.

A five-member transition panel was appointed by the Ford government in May 2023 with the mandate to dissolve the Region of Peel and hand its power to the three local governments. In December, the government recalibrated its scope to study how to make less significant changes to the region, focusing on roads, planning and water.

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When it announced the board, the government said Chair John Livey would receive $1,500 per day of work and $750 for days he works three hours or less. The other four members can charge $1,200 per day and $600 for three hours or less. Those costs are then sent to the Region of Peel to pay.

The province previously estimated Livey would make between $240,000 and $480,000, while the other board members would take home between $192,000 and $384,000.

In an early April email to council members, however, the Region of Peel’s CAO said the board’s work between July and December 2023 had cost $858,000. Work from January to mid-March 2024 came in at $635,000, the email said.

“We got notified about this bill about two or three weeks ago,” Brampton Coun. Gurpartap Singh Toor told Global News.

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“What is it for? All we know is there is an invoice from the transition board to the Region of Peel. What exactly does it pay for? I don’t know either.”

A spokesperson for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra told Global News the Region of Peel must cover all costs incurred by the board in its work.

“The Region of Peel is responsible for all costs related to the transition board, including staff supporting the board, external expertise, and advice on complex public works matters,” the spokesperson said.

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“All expenses must comply with provincial directives, including the Travel, Meal and Hospitality Directive and the Agencies and Appointments Directive. The ministry covers these costs and is reimbursed by the Region of Peel.”

Sources told Global News the board has also hired consultants to help with its work on the Region of Peel file. Both PwC and Hemson have been retained to work with the board — those costs are set to be paid by the local government too.

Councillors from Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga who sit at the Region of Peel have been receiving regular updates on the transition board, according to public agendas for the local government.

Several meetings in 2024 have included agenda items titled “Bill 112 provincial efficiencies review update,” where “information explicitly supplied in confidence” is shared in private.

Ontario Liberal Leader, and former Mississauga mayor, Bonnie Crombie said the province was “wasting” millions of dollars.

“It’s clear the Conservatives have no plan for our province, and their unpredictable actions have done nothing but take Ontario backwards,” she said in a statement.

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said local residents were paying for government indecision.

“When the Conservatives flip-flop, it’s the rest of us who have to pay the price,” she said.

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“Today we learned that Peel region is quite literally paying the price for Ford’s chaotic rollout and retraction of Peel region dissolution. People in Peel got saddled with a $1.5-million bill and a whole lot of uncertainty, while Ford moves on. Who’s going to pay for the next flip-flop?”

The five-member transition board was told by Housing Minister Calandra in January that its mandate would be changing, following a policy reversal. Instead of working out how to split up the whole of Peel Region, the panel was told to focus on a few key areas.

In a letter amending the scope of the panel, Calandra said he wanted to see the five provincially appointed experts zero in on changes to land planning, water and wastewater, regional roads and waste management.

“All other services delivered by the Region of Peel are considered out of scope for the Transition Board at this time,” Calandra wrote.

The Region of Peel is also responsible for services such as homelessness, accessible transit, public health and paramedics.

The government spokesperson told Global News Monday that the minister “remains open to scaling up transformative ideas” if that is what the transition board recommends.

The board will remain in place until the end of January 2025, unless Calandra directs them to work to a different deadline.

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