The City of Brampton has finalized its 2024 wish list for the federal government.

In a message outlining the requests, Mayor Patrick Brown mentions Brampton’s rapidly growing population and what residents need for long-term success, asking Ottawa for investments in housing, transit, economic development, active transportation, climate action and municipal fiscal sustainability. 

Brown and his fellow councillors, who have failed to adequately fund these needs—hewing instead to the mayor’s political strategy of deep budget cuts, regardless of the impacts on the struggling city—now want the federal government to bail them out. 

While housing is mainly a regional responsibility, Brampton councillors have done next to nothing over the last two terms to effectively advocate to the Region of Peel to fund affordable housing and Brown has been silent around the regional table when opportunities to increase funding were available to him. Transit investment in Brampton continues to fall short of meeting the surging demand for service and repeated budget delays—a side effect of Brown’s unsustainable budget freezes—have recently led to a desperately needed transit maintenance facility being delayed and over budget, bottlenecking the system. 

Aside from meaningless public pledges, climate action has been an afterthought under Brown with necessary investments to meet goals set in previously approved master plans removed from successive budgets

Brampton’s submission to the federal and provincial governments ahead of the budget process is standard practice for municipalities. But one of the main things the upper levels of government will look for when deciding where to put limited grant funding is whether the municipality is ready to immediately move forward with the project it’s requesting money for. This means having plans and local-share funding in place to collaborate with the federal government in a model that expects contributions from both levels. This is something Brampton council has repeatedly shown it struggles to do

Brampton is also asking the federal government to deliver affordable housing options that will allow residents, including first-time homeowners, multigenerational families, new immigrants, seniors and students to have access to purpose-built rental units and affordable ownership, with rising real estate prices creating a bigger barrier for these groups. 

Once again, after ignoring issues like the plight of international students, the use of illegal apartments instead of incentivizing proper housing stock in the city and the dire lack of housing for newcomers, Brown and his colleagues now want the federal government to commit financial support directly to vulnerable communities in Brampton, such as low-middle income residents, refugees and international students, to ensure they have “access to a diverse range of housing options,” that meet their needs.

The City is interested in developing its first Inclusionary Zoning policy framework, the 2024 federal pre-budget document highlights, to support new affordable ownership and rental units in Brampton but states it “requires financial support from upper levels of government to administer this tool.” It also wants the federal government to plan for a new task force alongside the Provincial government, educational institutions and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to develop “safe, adequate and affordable housing for international students and postgraduate work permit holders.”

The City highlights its unprecedented ridership on Brampton Transit, stating that although “the City has received some funding in the past, it has not received the same level of funding as other municipalities.” It details how its transit system is the first in the country to “not only fully recover, but also exceed its pre-pandemic ridership levels,” stating that by November 2023 the city’s year to date ridership was around 30 percent greater than its pre-pandemic levels.

Brown’s deep cuts to the department’s capital planning budget, repeatedly delaying critical infrastructure projects needed to keep up with demand from rapid population growth, have hindered the system’s growth. He now wants Ottawa to step in. But the federal government has made clear that the reason certain municipalities have received more transit funding is because they have contributed their own share responsibly, unlike Brampton.

Brampton is requesting funding for “priority transit projects” like the Hazel McCallion LRT Line, the Queen Street – Highway 7 Bus Rapid Transit initiative and transit electrification, and has asked the federal government to establish its $3 billion/year Permanent Public Transit Fund earlier “than 2026-27 to give municipalities the flexibility to use this funding to implement priority transit projects.”

It presents an equal cost breakdown request for the $2.8 billion the City says it needs for its preferred tunnel alignment option of its portion of the Hurontario/Main LRT (the Hazel McCallion line) extension, with $1.4 billion requested from each of the federal government and the Province, while failing to include any money from Brampton. A complete surface option would cost about a third of what the tunnel (which would only run through about half the Brampton extension) is currently estimated at. Premier Doug Ford has approved the Hurontario LRT extension into downtown Brampton, but has not provided details about the funding amount or route for the extension. 

Brampton also wants the federal government to provide “longer-term sustainable funding” so it can implement active transportation infrastructure and programs—another key priority highlighted in a City significantly dependent on gas-powered vehicles to get around—namely “first and last mile solutions that help support public transit, as part of the Federal Government’s National Active Transportation Strategy.” Council is requesting an increase to the total amount of the Active Transportation Fund so that municipalities can “accelerate the implementation of active transportation programs and infrastructure.” 

After years of failed climate action policies under Brown’s leadership, he and the other council members are now asking for help from higher levels of government. While other municipalities have budgeted to purchase electric buses and other vehicles, Brown’s budget freezes have put Brampton far behind, as dirty diesel is still widely used. 

Instead of advocating for clean transportation, like neighbouring municipalities that passed resolutions denouncing the proposed 413 Highway, Brown bragged that the new 400-series corridor would be a result of his push to put it back on the table when he was Ontario PC leader.

Now he wants Ottawa and Queen’s Park to provide funding ignored in the City’s own budgets, to address the growing problems climate change is creating for municipalities.  

For its climate goals, the pre-budget submission highlights how the City partnered with Sheridan College to develop the Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan (CEERP) which seeks to drive innovation, employment and economic development while also making progress on environmental and climate change goals. The CEERP calls for improved energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased resilience to climate change, setting targets for Brampton which it has failed to keep up with

To achieve the retrofitting of 80 percent of existing homes in Brampton necessary to meet its energy conservation and GHG emission reduction targets, the City wants to “establish a system to deliver standardized retrofits to Brampton homeowners,” claiming an effort at this scale outpaces the capacity “of any municipal budget” and needs a funding partnership strategy. The City has partnered with its neighbouring municipalities, Caledon and Mississauga to hire a consultant to inform the design of a home energy retrofit program, but notes that successfully implementing this “will require funding from the provincial and federal governments.”

“The City requests the federal government provide funding for residential energy retrofit programs, such as the proposed Peel Residential Energy Program,” the pre-budget submission states. It also wants federal investment to implement its Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP) and to deliver funding to the Centre for Community Energy Transformation

These asks come after Brampton has neglected to adequately invest in climate action for years. In 2022, Brampton spent more on a single roadway to continue its reliance on single-occupancy vehicles than it did on all of its environmental initiatives combined. In comparison, 41 percent of the City of Mississauga’s entire budget in 2022 was tied to furthering its climate change adaptation or mitigation efforts. 

Another priority highlighted in the document is stormwater infrastructure improvement, with Brampton asking the federal government to ”provide financial support for programs focused on gray and green infrastructure improvements, such as Brampton’s Stormwater Retrofit Program.” 

Email: hafsa.ahmed@thepointer.com

Twitter: @_hafsaahmed

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By Hafsa Ahmed, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 15, 2024 at 09:44

This item reprinted with permission from   The Pointer   Mississauga, Ontario
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