GOLDSTEIN: Ford should have waited to cut council

11 September, 2018, 23:28 | Author: Eric Barnett
  • Toronto City Council chambers CITYNEWS

An Ontario judge has struck down a provincial bill that would have seen the size of Toronto's city council slashed almost in half.

In light of the ruling, a spokesperson for the city confirmed Monday that the election will proceed as scheduled on October 22 on the basis of 47 wards.

Ford justified the move by stating his opinion that Belobaba's decision was "deeply concerning and wrong".

You'd have to be living under a rock to have missed the beginning of what has turned into an all-out brawl between Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto's city council.

"Second to Toronto, the number one amount of calls-because I give my cell number to absolutely everyone-is from the Ottawa and Ottawa region talking about that but, for now, we're going to leave well enough alone", Ford said.

"It is only when a democratically elected government has clearly crossed the line that the "judicial umpire" should intervene", he said.

In a tweet Monday night, Tory said he had met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Toronto for a women's summit, to discuss his concerns about the province's use of the notwithstanding clause.

With Ontario Premier Doug Ford saying he will be using the notwithstanding clause to force cuts to Toronto's city council despite a scathing court ruling that said it violated the Charter, and amid Alberta's suggestion that it's an option for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to revive the now stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, here's an explainer on the often-controversial clause.

Earlier in the day on Monday, Judge Belobaba ruled that Ford's plan, that was initially announced back in July was ridiculous.

"Democracy does not belong to a few of us, it belongs to all of us", he said.

The premier was set to respond to the ruling at noon, but the judge has noted that he was certain the losing party would appeal.


A number of Toronto city councillors also applauded the judgement.

"I have a lot of friends who were running in this particular election, people who I've mentored, people who I've encouraged to run, and the last thing we wanted to do was engage in some form of 'The Hunger Games, '" she said. For instance, it can't be used against provisions that protect the democratic process - that would create a pathway to dictatorship. Kristyn Wong-Tam said many council candidates held off registering in the 25-ward system pending the outcome of the court case.

This was never a fight the premier needed to pick, and it's hardly the fault of the attorney general's office that the government's lawyers failed to convincingly defend a bill that was slapped together in a hurry with no evidence that it was needed: Belobaba found that, despite the premier's repeated assertions to the contrary, there was no evidence that council is "dysfunctional".

Ford had argued it would improve decision-making on the council.

"You can't change the rules in the middle of a game".

"While the timing of the bill was not ideal. this bill was introduced almost three months before the election date, which is still longer than federal and provincial writ periods", CTF's federal director Aaron Wudrick said in a statement.

McMaster University political science professor Greg Flynn said Ford's use of the notwithstanding clause is a "nuclear response" and will likely lead to more litigation.

"This is a unsafe sign of what this government is willing to do", he said.

Bill 5 also cancelled planned elections for the head of council position in the regional municipalities of Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara, turning them into appointed roles. "And, again, why do so in the middle of the city's election?"

"The only people who are fighting this bill are left-wing councillors who want to continue their free ride on the taxpayers, along with a network of activist groups that have entrenched themselves with power over the years", said Ford.

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