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The next city councillor to claim this vacant seat could tip the scales in Brampton’s split city hall | CBC News

This municipal election could free Brampton’s city council from months of deadlock.

While not all councillors are running for re-election, Wards 7 & 8 is currently the only vacant seat for council hopefuls looking to shake up city hall. 

“Residents here have a unique opportunity to send someone to city hall who can either build bridges, or throw more gasoline on the fire,” said Jaskaran Sandhu, a candidate for Wards 7 & 8. In Brampton, each councillor represents two wards.

“I think everyone, irrespective of where they fall on the issues, is a little tired of a fractured council, a little tired of the headlines.”

Jaskaran Sandhu is on the board of the World Sikh Organization, is a co-founder of Baaz News, which caters to the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora, and a frequent media commentator (including CBC News). (Submitted by Jaskaran Sandhu)

In May, council voted to preemptively appoint a replacement for Charmaine Williams, who vacated the Wards 7 & 8 seat in June after being elected to provincial government.

The move was opposed by councillors siding with Mayor Patrick Brown and, in July, a judge moved to quash the appointment, which Brown had described as an “attempt to seize control.”

Since then, council has repeatedly failed to meet quorum, with the two factions fighting publicly over financial discrepancies surrounding a Brown-backed push to bring a full university to Brampton.

That’s why a local civic engagement group thinks the winning candidate in Wards 7 & 8 has a real chance to tip the scales — especially if they focus on tackling city hall’s lack of transparency.

“The citizen, the taxpayer, the local residents usually struggle to understand what’s happening, so that’s the most fundamental thing,” said Harminder Dhillon, founder of Engage Peel.

Thirteen candidates are running for the job, including hopefuls like Sandhu and Donna Williams, sister of the former councillor. That’s more candidates than in any other ward. However, Sandhu and Williams are some of the only ones clearly publicly campaigning on the promise to put alliances behind them and push city hall back on track. 

“My hope is to literally go in there and shake things up and not be afraid to call it out for what it is,” said Sandhu, who has spent years involved in grassroots activism and political arenas.

The media commentator (including for CBC News) and co-founder of Baaz News hopes to win over voters as a fierce advocate for improved road safety, customer service and transparency at city hall. He also wants to push for increased funding from other levels of government.

Picking up the torch

Wards 7 houses neighbourhoods first built in the 1970s, as well as the Bramalea City Centre, while Ward 8 contains new suburbs that have grown to form Brampton’s outer boundary. Both contain industrial areas, which the city is known for. 

Because of her career as CFO of a supply chain management firm, Williams, a decades-long Brampton resident, believes she’s the ideal candidate to fill the void her sister left behind.

Donna Williams is the sister to former city councillor for Brampton’s Wards 7 & 8, Charmaine Williams. While she’s always been involved in political and community work behind the scenes, she says her sister’s move to provincial government has prompted her to step up and fill her place. (Donna Williams Campaign Facebook)

“People know us. They know who we are and they know what we stand for already,” she said.

If elected, Williams says she’ll focus on strengthening by-law enforcement, advocating for more funding, transparency and increasing the diversity of workers in city hall. She’ll also push for more collaboration with the provincial government.

“We can get more done in the next four years if we have a united council working with an entire united political base in Brampton,” she said.

Trust needs to be won

The deadlock isn’t the first time Dhillon says residents have dealt with uninspiring politics.

When Charmaine Williams won the 2018 election, she received only 25 per cent of the votes. Turnout across the city was also low, with less than 35 per cent of Brampton’s population casting a ballot.

“People do not get engaged, therefore we don’t elect the proper leaders,” said Dhillon.

Harminder Dhillon is the founder of a small and local civic engagement group, Engage Peel. Dhillon says Engage Peel is working to organize councillor debates and lobby for increased transparency and accessibility of city hall meetings. (Submitted by Harminder Dhillon)

That’s why, he says he’s holding back hope for change until after election day. He wants to see candidates prove how dedicated they are to transparency.

“I have lived all my life in Peel, and I can’t even recall when there was not a scandal coming out of Brampton city hall every week.”


The other candidates for Wards 7 & 8 are:

  • Nataleigh Ballantyne
  • Kuljit Singh Batra
  • Baljit Bawa
  • Raymond Carle
  • Michael Farquharson
  • Fatima Faruq Ahmad
  • Damindar Ghumman
  • Rod Power
  • Cheryl Rodricks
  • Gagan Sandhu
  • Cindy-Ann Williams
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