A longtime Brampton, Ont., city councillor visited Queen's Park on Thursday to make a public plea to Premier Doug Ford to ensure Mayor Patrick Brown is not given "strong mayor" powers.
Brown is trying to be elected to a second term as Brampton's mayor. Ontario's municipal elections are being held on Oct. 24.
The Progressive Conservative government prioritized passing its "strong mayors" bill this summer to give the incoming mayors of Toronto and Ottawa greater authority starting this fall.
Bill 3, the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act, will grant the two cities' mayors the ability to veto council decisions, create their city's budget, unilaterally hire and fire key staff, and put together and reorganize key departments, committees and boards — decisions that councils currently share.
Ford has said the mayors of other large cities, including Brampton, could be given similar powers before the 2026 municipal elections.
At Queen's Park on Thursday, Brampton Coun. Jeff Bowman said in a pre-written statement that Brown is the "poster child" of a mayor who shouldn't be given more power.
"I urge the premier and minister to carve out an exemption in any upcoming legislation that blocks these powers being utilized by Mr. Brown,” the two-term councillor's statement said.
While speaking in the media studio at Queen's Park, the councillor offered a list of Brown's alleged ethical failings as mayor since May 2022 as evidence of why he shouldn't be given more power.
Many of the allegations are related to a project to create Brampton University.
Bowman said that, in May, a person close to Coun. Rowena Santos, Brown's ally on Brampton council, was invited to prep a white paper on Brampton University's development. Councillors learned later in the month that the supposed cost of the white paper had more than tripled to more than $600,000, and that a final report never came together, violating the original agreement.
Bowman and other councillors sought a forensic third-party investigation into the request for proposal (RFP), leading Brampton's city manager to hire an auditor. Upon starting its investigation, the auditor identified more irregular RFPs.
In late August, the auditor offered an update of its report to council. Brown and his allies then voted to cancel the remainder of the audit, Bowman said, and did so by taking advantage of another councillor's absence. A vote to publicly release documents compiled thus far in the investigation was defeated as well.
Brown has cancelled all regular council meetings until after the municipal elections are held.
"We are hiding things in the city of Brampton from the residents and that is absolutely wrong," said Bowman, who isn't seeking re-election to Brampton's council.
Nikki Kaur, a City of Brampton planner and whistleblower who is challenging Brown for mayor with a stacked team of experienced politicos backing her, said she would accept and use strong mayor powers but that she doesn't want Brown entrusted with them.
"You can see what's already happened," Kaur said. "What do you think strong mayor powers would do for us (if given to Brown)? Just look at the state of the city. ... I don't think (Brown's) a man that should be getting (them)."
Brown's political career has been polka-dotted by scandals.
As Ford's predecessor atop the PC party, Brown broke ethics law by not disclosing that a friend who was later acclaimed as a PC candidate had given him a $375,000 loan.
Brown was forced to quit as leader of Ontario's Conservative Party after CTV News reported allegations of sexual misconduct involving two women. Brown denied the allegations and sued CTV, whom he came to a settlement with in July. CTV News said "key details" of the story were "factually incorrect and required correction." It updated its original story to reflect that a woman who alleged Brown made unwanted sexual advances on her while she was drunk did so when she was of legal drinking age, instead of when she wasn't, which the story originally said. The allegations weren't tested in court.
A month and a half later, Ford became PC leader. Ford's PC government was elected two and a half months later. Four and a half months after that, Brown was elected mayor of Brampton.
Brown and CTV News reached their settlement in early March 2022. Days later, Brown announced he was running to become leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. The party's leadership election organizing committee kicked Brown out of its contest in early July, citing “serious allegations of wrongdoing” that appeared to violate federal election law. He denied doing anything wrong.
Brown announced he was running for re-election as Brampton's mayor in mid-July.