Judge strikes down bill to reduce Toronto council size

Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement at the Queens Park legislature in Toronto on Wednesday

Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement at the Queens Park legislature in Toronto on Wednesday

Ford announced that his government will immediately recall Ontario's Legislature and introduce legislation that, if passed, will invoke Section 33 of the Constitution and ensure the Better Local Government Act is preserved in time for the October 22 Municipal Election.

That means voters in the next Toronto municipal election will choose 25 councillors instead of 47.

"Invoking the notwithstanding clause in a case like this is an unprecedented move, literally suspending the Charter rights of Ontario people in order to plow ahead with his revenge plot against his political enemies at Toronto City Hall", said Horwath. "I'll tell you, Ottawa, I don't know what's going on out in Ottawa but I'm getting endless calls from the Ottawa region", he said. "I was elected by 2.3 million voters".

And if the courts keep striking down his bad laws as unconstitutional, Ford says he's ready to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the constitution "again in the future" too.

Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that his government will invoke the clause in response to a judge's ruling that said his move to cut the size of Toronto city council by almost half was in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Of course, in addition to the usual misleading squeals about "activist judges", Ford's supporters in the news media, the Astroturf sector, and on social media were confidently shouting the opposite - that Canadians trust legislatures over the courts.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the premier's move appeared motivated by an "apparent personal vendetta" against Toronto city council.

However, legal counsel for protesters in B.C. might get some value from trying to have the injunction set aside, seeing as the permits have now been ruled not to be legal.

"My concern is democracy", the premier said.

"I get the fact that he believes in a smaller city council".

At his press conference, Ford complained to reporters that a "democratically elected government" is being "shut down by the courts".

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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".

"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.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam tweeted that an appeal for the province would be a "steep uphill climb".

Ford had said in the past that Ottawa and Toronto city councils are not comparable, calling the comparison one of apples to oranges.

Mayor John Tory said the judge agreed with the city that it is not fair to "change the rules in the middle of the game".

His plan wasn't mentioned during the province's spring election campaign or in the throne speech.

"This premier has served notice that he doesn't respect other peoples' rights and, despite his token protestations to the contrary, he doesn't respect the role of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing them."

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

But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which provided funding to one of the groups challenging the province, called Belobaba's decision a victory for democracy. "It's apples and oranges, apples and oranges, when you compare a town the size of Ottawa, a attractive city, compared to a city the size of Toronto, you can't even compare it".

The decision has no effect on Bill 5's cancelling of regional chair elections in other municipalities. As a result Belobaba ruled that the "province had crossed a line", finding that Ford's plan violated charter rights.

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