Western Mississauga issues

Over discussion among our western Mississauga neighbours, some local issues come up regularly. Here is a Frequently-Asked Questions page with some insights into those questions. There are always ‘easy answers’ for community issues, but seldom do they match with ‘easy issues.’ Many questions below contain a Reality Check before we get into what options Mississauga may have. Enjoy.

Mississauga and Peel Region

Reality check

Under the British North America Act, municipalities are within the legislative domain of Canada’s provincial governments. About 50 years ago, back in the 1970s, the Government of Ontario correctly foresaw that the then-rural areas surrounding Toronto would grow to accommodate the steady influx of new people and businesses. Acts defining each region (i.e. Peel, Halton, York, Durham, Simcoe and others) were passed in the Ontario Legislature enabling these rural municipalities to pool resources to afford basic services like utilities, police, water, health, social services, waste management, roads and other essential functions.

The regional acts contained no sunset clause to allow disassembling a region. I have read the Region of Peel Act, and a few others. Whether or not you think there may be a case for breaking up Peel Region, there is no unilateral mechanism for the municipalities of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon to do so, even if all three wished to.

Such an amendment to one regional act would need to be reflected in all the regional acts, and those regional acts need to be amended by passage of a bill in the Ontario Legislature. This would be a complex, difficult and lengthy process.

Options for Mississauga

A regular review of ‘who does what’ is always useful. However, there is no logical case to, for example, have both a Mississauga and a Brampton Police Force. Water should remain a regional responsibility. It’s worth discussing whether roads should be shared between the cities and the region, or (as I believe) shift to being a city responsibility. The balance of the functions performed by the Region are delivered effectively and reliably. There would need to be a clear, compelling case to shift other functions from the Region to its three individual cities.

As an MPP, I discussed the latitude (or lack of it) that cities and towns have to change their various regional acts within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing at great length while I served as at Queen’s Park. It’s not likely to change any time soon, and any such process needs to be driven by the provincial government.

What’s likely

Let’s look at roads, and possibly waste management moving from being regional in scope to being managed by the cities. It would make sense to work with the other municipalities within the GTA to build a consensus for going to the Province with a specific set of measures to pass in the Ontario Legislature to allow regions more flexibility to change which functions are done by cities, and which are done by the various regions. This would allow municipalities like Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon (the three municipalities within Peel) the ability to redistribute which functions are done by the cities, and which remain regional in scope.

Community safety

12-month crime statistics

In the 12 months ending in September 2022, there were three homicides in the Meadowvale and Central Erin Mills area, all three solved by the Peel Police. There were more than 40 break-and enter crimes, about five-sixths ongoing or unsolved; four incidences of drug trafficking; and 15 charges for drug possession. Motor vehicle thefts numbered in the dozens. Most of them go unsolved. There were 18 reported robberies. Most robberies are solved.

For many areas in the GTA, these might be considered low crime numbers. In western Mississauga, folks here feel there is room for improvement.

Reality check

To maintain the essential separation of the government and the police, the Peel Police are responsible to the Peel Police Services Board, not city or regional councils. To put it another way, no elected representative, at any level, can – or should ever want to – direct or command the police force.

Does the separation between policing and government mean that communities have few options? Far from it.

Options for our neighbourhoods

  • Community engagement is important. So are measures to ensure that our streets and public places are attractive for youth, adults and families to gather. Empty streets and public places leave room for crime to take control. Well-designed neighbourhoods are places where people are confidently on the streets and in public places;
  • Neighbourhood watch programs are proven ways to dramatically reduce crimes and the opportunity to commit them. In Ward 9, we need to build a sustainable neighbourhood watch system. Working with the Peel Regional Police and Safe City Mississauga, we’ll bring our neighbourhoods together, and teach families the principles and skills of safer communities. If people from the neighbourhood are on the streets, if they know what to look out for, and know how to steer people away from danger, or bring in assistance quickly, the opportunity to commit crime drops off the table;
  • Peel Social Services, and our churches and youth organizations can offer anti-violence workshops. It’s been effective – in fact very effective – elsewhere;
  • After an incident has been reported, the City and the Region can partner with local neighbourhood associations to have a response team to offer assistance to individuals and families affected by crime, offer family support and help stop the circle of crime.

The Peel Police, to their credit, have the courage to try new approaches, such as the various community police stations several years ago. Our neighbourhoods and community leaders don’t need to tell the police how to do their jobs, we need to do our own part in keeping our homes, streets and public places safe, and know how to engage with the Peel Police quickly and effectively whenever we need to.

Meadowvale Community Police Station

Reality check

The various community police stations across Mississauga, including one in Meadowvale, were a time-limited experiment initiated by the former Police Chief. They were all closed. People tended to report incidents by phone rather than visiting the community police location. This meant minimal foot traffic at the stations in return for the considerable investment.

Placing a community police station inside a specific neighbourhood requires the Peel Regional Police to spend some considerable resources, both people and money. Think it through. Each such community police station requires at least one civilian employee and two officers. That’s salary plus benefits. Add in the price of retail floor space and operating costs. The outcomes from crime statistics for the investment of police budget resources didn’t support the expense.

Options for Mississauga

Elected representatives do not ‘control’ the Peel Police, and cannot command any specific step to be taken. This independence of law enforcement and the judiciary from politics is exactly as it should be.

This issue, if Mississauga City Council chooses to raise it, is a city-wide, and not a ward-specific decision. Council could raise community police stations during the upcoming police budget process. We could then discuss the pros and cons in the various neighbourhoods concerned, along with a representative of the Peel Police to answer detailed questions.

What is likely

Just as the police cannot ‘arrest themselves out of a crime trend,’ so too our neighbourhoods need to work with the Peel Police on the causes and nature of law-breaking and law enforcement. The police personnel at the now-closed community police stations chose to get proactively into the various communities, rather than wait passively for the community to come to the station. Let’s get Peel Police staff into our community to talk to us about crime trends, and explore sustainable ways to get crime down. Not all of those ways may involve more officers, or more policing.

Affordable housing

Reality check

Housing is among the responsibilities of the Region of Peel. Along with roads, it may be a candidate to transfer to the individual municipalities. In the interim, Mississauga needs to work with Brampton and Caledon on common issues. In 2022, Mississauga adopted a set of inclusionary zoning principles intended to increase and retain the supply of affordable housing.

Options for Mississauga

  • Work with the federal government to criminalize and eliminate the use of housing as a means to launder money;
  • Work with the provincial and federal governments to provide disincentives for housing units of all sizes to stand vacant while offshore money is ‘parked’ in their purchase as a means to speculate;
  • Examine zoning decisions made 50, 40 and 30 years ago to find opportunities to re-purpose commercial and industrial land within our borders for medium and high-density houses.

We also need to ensure that the Ontario Municipal Board cannot override and completely re-write municipal and regional plans at the behest of legal teams funded by land developers. In general, we need to build high-density and affordable housing first, then medium density homes, and only last should we build single-family homes. Too often, the building order is the other way around, with the result that existing homeowners challenge the planned development of affordable and higher-density housing on inaccurate grounds.

A real Youth strategy

Western Mississauga neighbourhoods have always been good at is renewal. Places like Meadowvale, Lisgar, Streetsville, Churchiill Meadows and Central Erin Mills continue to be attractive places for young families to come and build homes, careers, and lives. So what about youth? We have some successes in helping youth who find themselves homeless, or in trouble. The challenge is, that’s only a small fraction of our kids, teens and 20-somethings.The Mississauga Youth strategy is a 119-page document that’s long on direction and aspiration, and short on specifics, budgets and timelines. A consulting firm designed a nice report, and there are a lot of managers, directors and business advisors on the project team. But it was light on youth input.

The five “Key Focus Areas” and 18 projects in the plan talk about marketing plans, communication plans, program reviews, and exploring trends. The city has spent years planning. I say, let’s start doing.

There are no budget allocations, and no time schedules in Mississauga’s Youth Plan. We can’t just talk about youth, we need to work with youth, and their families. Here are 5 specific steps we should take to get action:

  1. Provide kids and their families the ability to reach out to the city to design programs for this decade, and their neighbourhoods;
  2. Spend money, and get on with neighbourhood initiatives to bring young people together in sports, learning, group activities, counselling, volunteer work, and preparation for the careers that kids dream about;
  3. Get our community’s businesses and employers who are pleading for people to employ in tomorrow’s jobs working with the very young people who could fill those jobs, and build their careers right at home;
  4. Partner with the trades, and teach young men and women how to build and fix things, work with their hands, and learn about the lucrative opportunities in building and mechanical work;
  5. Give Ward 9 young people a regular voice through live get-togethers, plus regular Facebook or Zoom live round tables.

Carbon emissions and climate change

Reality check

Residential housing accounts for about a sixth of all carbon emissions. Cities need to work with the provincial government to continue to evolve the building code with technology, new materials, cheaper solar equipment and best practices on both new homes, and especially retrofits on existing homes. Ontario electricity is largely carbon-free, save for gas-fired peak power plants which typically operate only five to ten percent of the time.

Options for Mississauga

  • The local electricity and gas distributors (Alectra and Enersource in Mississauga) are ideal local partners through which to design and implement subsidy and rebate programs to improve insulation and update old technology;
  • Solar heating and solar photovoltaics both reduce energy demand. Low-temperature solar panel heating conversions through a gas utility will allow homeowners to reduce gas consumption. While gas burns cleanly, it’s still a carbon-based fuel and basically methane burns to carbon dioxide and water vapour. Still, reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide is a realistic goal to which a mandate, money, people and time need to be allocated;
  • Architects should be thinking ahead to when rooftop solar panels can be linked to cost-effective wall-mounted storage cells that charge during the day. This would enable a home resident to minimize the need to use the grid during peak times, and, for example, re-charge an electric car battery at night;
  • Cities like Mississauga need to work with developers and commercial property owners to ensure that battery charging infrastructure for the now-arriving generation of electric cars becomes available as the proportion of electric cars on our roads grows rapidly.

Cannabis retailing

Reality check

Some folks, of all age groups, have asked about the decision made a number of years ago on how retail stores selling cannabis products would be located and regulated. The decision basis on which Mississauga City Council formulated its policies and rules has changed with time and experience. In simple terms, the retail cannabis business models did not survive first contact with marketplace demand or realities. When the issue first arose several years ago:

  • Public reaction broadly ranged somewhere between ‘hell no’ and ‘not here;’
  • The existing legislative and regulatory framework was in its infancy, and most jurisdictions erred on the side of caution;
  • Many new products containing cannabis, especially for specific medical treatments, have been developed and released.

Options for Mississauga

If the question implied whether the next Council would re-visit the same retail cannabis policy, based on years-old and now-outdated assumptions, the answer is ‘probably not.’ The more likely outcome would be for the next Council to take a forward-looking approach, quantify what we now know to be either true or more accurate, and ask whether existing by-laws, regulations and zoning restrictions need to be re-visited or re-written. In the intervening years, we’ve learned about how the retail market behaves, and know more about its supply and demand balance.

Should the issue come to City Council again, following a review by staff and additional public consultations, each Council member can then make a fresh and possibly better-informed decision than was made several years ago. If City Council chooses to look again at this issue, everyone should examine the information before them dispassionately, set aside their preconceptions, and listen to the community consultations nonjudgmentally. Don’t advocate a ‘yes’ nor ‘no.’ Be part of a process to fairly re-visit what is likely to still be an emotional issue.