February 13, 2022 (3 Minute)
By Ian Harvey, Contributing Writer
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might well take some notes on leadership from Brampton’s Mayor Patrick Brown. Unlike Trudeau, Brown didn’t shy from meeting with divergent camps and worked to placate a deeply divided council through a series of intense and long meetings.
The formula was simple. To settle issues disrupting two opposing camps, Mayor Brown listened carefully to both sides and reached an acceptable middle ground.
An exaggerated storm in a teacup over long standing procedural rules that required 2/3 votes (8 out of 11) Council members to reopen an already decided issue. This procedural rule exists in most municipal councils, such as City of Toronto, Region of Peel and Town of Caledon. In the City of Mississauga, a decision cannot be reconsidered within the first 12 months.
However, it led to strong words and accusations. Brown, however, didn’t run away or hide from the situation. Rather, he opened his door and started working on building bridges.
Brown wasn’t shy about giving credit to those who collaborated to break the impasse. He said veteran Councilor Pat Fortini worked with Brown to find a compromise to bring the Council onto the same page.
It took several meetings that stretched into the night, but in the end, there was an agreement of support to proceed in a different and unified direction.
When contacted by The Bramptonist, Mayor Brown said he “was grateful for Councillor Fortini’s exceptional work on bridge-building between a divided council. Pat really stepped up and showed leadership.”
Bringing divided factions together is nothing new to Brown. In Brampton politics, it was no easy thing for Mayor Brown to win an 11-0, unanimous vote on the city’s Transit Plan, but that’s exactly what he did. He also successfully managed to wade through competing priorities and get unanimous consent for all four annual City budgets, achieving 4 consecutive 0% budget increases on the City’s portion of the property tax bill.
In 2018, City Council changed leadership, removing the controversial Harry Schlange and eventually selecting David Barrick as the City’s top bureaucrat. Barrick quickly re-focused the administration in delivering on Council’s strategic priorities. However, every CAO knows when entering the job, that there is a high turnover rate in Ontario amongst CAOs.
It came to a head when the six disgruntled councilors refused to attend a council meeting, robbing it of the required quorum and bringing the governing body to a screeching halt for two scheduled meetings.
Brown went to work to repair the bridges and close the gaps and it resulted in an agreement to appoint Paul Morrison as the interim CAO. Morrison has held leadership roles at the City as Director of Bylaw & Enforcement and Acting Legislative Services Commissioner and was a former Superintendent with the Hamilton Police Service.
Morrison has been a steady hand in leading the Bylaw team during this challenging period of COVID-19 and was seen with the Mayor every Wednesday for the last two years at the City’s weekly COVID-19 press conferences. He was clearly one of the City’s emergency management stars.
The council thanked Barrick for his work and wished him well in his next role. They unanimously agreed to sign a letter of reference, recognizing Barrick’c contribution to the City.
It should be noted just days before his sudden departure, Barrick had presented the City progress in pushing its Term Of Council Priorities. Brampton maintained its S&P Triple-A Credit Rating for the 6th consecutive year, reflecting the City’s robust economy and financial management practices as well as landing #13 on Maclean’s list of Best Communities in Canada 2021 and being ranked one of Forbes Canada’s Best Employers 2021.
“In a motion moved by myself and seconded by all of Council, we have unanimously selected Paul Morrison to shepherd the City of Brampton through COVID-19 and our economic recovery,” said Brown. “His experience in Legislative Services, Bylaw & Enforcement, and policing make him uniquely qualified to be our Council’s interim Chief Administrative Officer. Paul has our full confidence.”
In an online video interview with Insauga’s Khaled Iwamura, Regional Councillor Martin Medeiros, one of the opposing counsel faction, said the stand-off came because some Councillors didn’t feel they were being heard and that the will of the majority council wasn’t being reflected due to procedural rules.
He said the canceled meetings were the result of “drastic measures but I don’t expect it to be something common. I hope it never happens again.” He said the direction to hire Morrison was unanimous, which demonstrated Council was heading in a different direction.
“I want to recognize the leadership of Mayor Brown,” he said. “It’s easy to criticize but you have to congratulate good work in bringing people together. It was a good demonstration of leadership.”
He said Brown came out to a local restaurant to join several Councillors for lunch and that it was a well-appreciated gesture.
Hinting the rumor that Brown is being courted to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada to replace Erin O’Toole, Medeiros was all smiling and commented, “Sometimes I tell Mayor Brown that Brampton seems too small for him and we would all be very proud to see him be on a different team, recognize he is a man with a lot of vision and talent.”