Political gridlock and infighting continued on Brampton council the day after Patrick Brown announced he would run again as mayor, following his disqualification from the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race.
A special meeting called by Brown could not go ahead Tuesday after five councillors who oppose the mayor — and have called for a police investigation into his time at city hall — failed to attend.
Two warring factions have formed publicly on Brampton council in 2022, with conflict reaching a head after MPP Charmaine Williams won the riding of Brampton Centre in June’s provincial election.
In May, deputy mayors Pat Fortini and Martin Medeiros, councillors Jeff Bowman, Gurpreet Dhillon and Doug Whillans, along with Williams, passed a motion to select her replacement before she resigned her seat.
That decision was successfully challenged by Coun. Harkirat Singh at the Superior Court of Ontario in Brampton — which quashed the motion last week.
Singh brought his legal action on behalf of Brown and councillors Michael Palleschi, Rowena Santos and Paul Vicente.
“The Applicant brought this urgent application to quash the Resolution and By-law for illegality by asserting that both were passed without jurisdiction,” the court’s decision read.
Brown and the four councillors loyal to him refused to attend three separate council meetings before the judge quashed the motion, citing its “illegality.” Brown also cancelled a meeting the day after he was disqualified from the CPC leadership race.
Now, the roles have been reversed.
On Tuesday, it was Brown and his four allies who waited 30 minutes inside council chambers at 11 a.m., before being forced to abandon the meeting because there were too few participants.
“We protected the City of Brampton from potential legal risks by asking for the Court ruling and waiting to return to normal business,” Brown and his four allies wrote in a statement.
“Now, in the absence of any reasons that are valid, those same Councillors are refusing to attend to City business by skipping critical Council meetings.”
Brampton’s two deputy mayors and the three other councillors who make up their group said they told Brown they were unavailable for a council meeting — and allege he arranged one anyway.
“Despite hearing scheduling conflicts from other Councillors and being apprised by the City Clerk’s Office of the fact that a number of Members have sent their regrets to attend, nevertheless, the Mayor intentionally proceeded to call a meeting, knowing quorum will not be reached and the meeting cannot be held,” the five said in a statement.
Global News reached out to the City of Brampton to inquire if the clerk was informed if councillors could not attend and if that information was conveyed to Brown.
The two council groups appear to have a competing set of priorities and are unable to convene a meeting. Six council members are required to attend for a council meeting in Brampton to take place.
Brown’s group has highlighted the dismissal of Brampton’s integrity commissioner and city solicitor by majority vote of his opponents as key concerns.
The deputy mayors’ group has raised red flags about contracts handed out in city hall under Brown’s watch and initiated a series of investigations.
In a report issued in May, the city’s interim chief administrative officer found that $629,000 went to four vendors involved with a university project in the city, but staff were unable to find the final product for five of the “deliverables” identified in the expenses.
The mayor’s opponents have said the bulk of the money went to one firm, which employed a close associate of Brown.
Asked Monday whether he would allow the investigations to go ahead if re-elected, Brown would not give a clear answer.
In the meantime, before Brampton’s municipal election on Oct. 24, the gridlock has continued.
“Now is not the time to vacation,” the statement issued by Brown’s bloc said. “We believe this is unjust and unfair to the residents and call on our colleagues to get back to work and perform their duty, which they are elected and sworn to do.”
The mayor has scheduled another meeting for Wednesday morning.
The bloc opposing Brown said in its statement it would “welcome” full attendance at a council meeting on August 10, when the next meeting was scheduled to take place.
— with files from The Canadian Press