People are calling them the Progressive Six, and their confidence is palpable.
Councilors Dhillon, Singh, Vicente, Santos, Medeiros, and Fortini drove the agenda in the opening week of Brampton City Council and Peel Regional Council, leaving Mayor Brown and his allies in Palleschi, Whillans, and Bowman keenly aware of how different this new council is from the last.
On December 4th, Santos became the seventh Brampton member of Peel Region council beating out Jeff Bowman. Harkirat Singh city councillor in ward 9/10 was named the alternate. Mark that as the first clear example of the old guard no longer in control.
But wait, there’s more!
On December 5th Gurpreet Dhillon brought forward a comprehensive motion on Brampton’s transit network which put Hurontario Main Light Rail Transit (HMLRT) back on the table as the preferred route, revised the studies into alternative LRT routes on McLaughlin and Kennedy in favour of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead, and asked staff to expedite studies and plans into rapid transit on Queen Street.
Brown, along with Whillans and Bowman, tried their best to defer and stop the motion, including invoking the name of former premier Bill Davis and asking for a possible tunnel option which perhaps unbeknownst to Brown was already examined in 2016 and found to be egregiously expensive with little value add.
Brown tried to play the Bill Davis card signalling that since Davis, a former premier and prominent member of the Brampton community didn’t support the LRT up Main Street, they shouldn’t either (Davis owns a house on Main Street beside Gage Park). But this didn’t appear to sway this young and diverse new council.
Palleschi, the vocal deciding vote that killed the HMLRT in the first place — and the accompanying full provincial funding — was noticeably quiet during this debate.
However, even though Dhillon had enough votes to pass his motion as-is without the support of Brown and his allies, Dhillon showed laudable leadership and savvy by asking staff to also look into a tunnel option — an option which will likely be rejected again. This brought Brown, Whillans, and Bowman together with the rest of council for a unanimous vote.
It took two days for this fresh team of councillors to fix a disastrous mistake from three years ago.
No, the provincial money is not there anymore to extend the HMLRT to downtown Brampton. But, this motion ensures Brampton has a sound transit plan that is shovel ready for federal money in an election year and possibly provincial money down the road as well.
Hold on, not done yet, one more thing!
On December 6th, the regional council selected its Regional Chair.
Brown and his ally Palleschi threw their support behind former Ontario Liberal minister, Charles Sousa.
The Regional Progressive five (Singh is not a regional councillor) threw their support behind the eventual winning candidate, Nando Iannicca instead.
It has become clear that the progressives on Brampton’s council, elected in a convincing and historic fashion this past election, have guts and spines.
We are only a few days in what looks to be a watershed moment for Brampton. The Progressive Six are not afraid of disrupting the status quo, and that is pretty refreshing.