Ontario housing minister asks standing committee to assess 2-tier regions, no separate facilitator

Instead of appointing regional facilitators, Ontario's new municipal affairs and housing minister has requested that the standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy be put in charge of assessing the effectiveness of two-tier governments.

Paul Calandra posted his letter to committee on social media

A man can be seen speaking at a podium.
Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra says that instead of hiring facilitators to assess the future of six of the province's regional governments, he wants a legislative committee to do the review. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

An Ontario legislative committee, and not provincially appointed facilitators, should do a review into two-tier municipalities in the province, the new minister of municipal affairs and housing says.

Paul Calandra has sent a letter to members of the standing committee on heritage, infrastructure and cultural policy. It asks the committee to "take over the work originally proposed for facilitators."

In November 2022, the housing minister at the time, Steve Clark, announced he would appoint facilitators to review six municipalities:

  • Waterloo.
  • Halton.
  • Niagara.
  • Simcoe.
  • Durham.
  • York.

In May, the province announced plans to dissolve Peel region by 2025.

The facilitators would work to ensure the regions were ready to "deliver on the government's commitment to tackle the housing supply crisis."

In August, Clark announced during the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that he would name the facilitators by Sept. 11.

But on Sept. 4, Clark stepped down from his role as minister amid the Greenbelt land-swap controversy.

Calandra announced on Monday he was pausing plans to name the facilitators.

'Substantial request' for committee

In a letter shared on the social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, Calandra acknowledged it was a "substantial request" for the committee, which is "already tasked with a significant workload."

"The standing committee has the ability to carry out this work in a manner that is public, open and accountable, with the opportunities for participation from members of all parties, local governments and the public, including in the affected communities," Calandra said in his letter to the committee.

"Still, the standing committee is uniquely suited to review and report on these important questions in a matter that will build public trust."

The committee is made up of members from the Progressive Conservatives, NDP and Liberals. They are scheduled to meet later this month, when it's expected the members will discuss Calandra's request.

Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman responded to the news Wednesday and said "important conversations" like this "need to happen in public."

"I support an open and transparent process," Redman's statement said.

The NDP municipal affairs critic, Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch, described the move as "lurching from one random decision to another, with no clarity on [this government's] direction or motives."

"These facilitators were slated to make incredibly important decisions for our regions and municipalities – and Calandra's treating it like a game of hot-potato," he said in a release Wednesday.