Why shouldn’t Dufferin, Caledon merge?

June 30, 2015   ·   0 Comments

BACK IN THE MID-19TH CENTURY when local politicians were eying the creation of a new county made up of townships that were remote from the county towns of Grey, Simcoe, Wellington and Peel, the unfulfilled dream was that what became known as Dufferin County would include Caledon Township.

Although Caledon Township is no longer on the map, its name has long since been adopted by the northernmost of Peel Region’s three municipalities.

Today’s Town of Caledon has a population of about 65,000 – roughly that of Dufferin – and the town has more than half the region’s total land mass but only four per cent of its current population of about 1,400,000.

And therein lies the root of the problem facing the town. It should be obvious to anyone that a town Caledon’s size cannot have any real clout in a region with two other lower-tier municipalities the size of Mississauga and Brampton.

This year, things have come to a head on the issue of long-term planning, and reached a boiling point at the last meeting of Peel Region Council, when Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson and the town’s four regional councillors walked out of the meeting in protest over what they saw as a move by the two cities to emasculate Caledon’s control over its future.

There’s little doubt that Peel once made sense as a political unit. Before the Toronto-induced population explosion began in the 1950s, Brampton was the logical county town with a population of about 7,000, a central location and good rail links with other parts of a county that had some of Ontario’s best farmlands.

However, at least to us, today’s Peel Region really makes no sense at all.

The cities of Mississauga and Brampton are overwhelmingly urban centres with needs and interests much closer to those of places like Oakville, Vaughan and Markham than to Caledon. Their future should lie in a new Metropolitan (or Greater) Toronto that also incorporates portions of York, Durham and Halton regions that are similarly urbanized and share in the gridlock problems afflicting the entire area.

In the circumstances, we think the time has come for Dufferin County Council to look seriously at the pros and cons of merging with the Town of Caledon to form a county or region with the same boundaries as the current federal and provincial ridings of Dufferin-Caledon, with an initial population of about 130,000.

The new municipal unit would have many advantages above and beyond the sharing of geological features like the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Most of its residents would have similar views on such things as population growth and environmental protection, and Caledon residents in particular would see themselves as being in a place where their voices could be heard and count.

One common cause for residents would be the need for immediate action on the rehabilitation of the area’s huge gravel pits, some of which have been operating for half a century, for either farming or recreational use – and a requirement that any new pits be progressively rehabilitated during the extraction process.

One option that might be examined would be restoration of Bolton’s status as a town rather than just one of Caledon’s current five wards.

The new county or regional council would obviously have to be larger than Dufferin’s current 13 members, but an approach guaranteeing each lower-tier municipality one member and giving Orangeville and Caledon one for each 10,000 residents could produce a 17-member council with seven members from Caledon, three from Orangeville and one each from the remaining seven towns and townships.

How could such things possibly happen? Obviously, nothing could be accomplished without provincial approval. Ontario’s municipalities are, after all, creatures of the Province.

A starting point might be informal discussion among the politicians, potentially followed by an invitation by Dufferin County Council to Caledon Council to hold exploratory talks on union and/or seek a consultant’s advice on the pros and cons of such a merger.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.