Ford plays his charter trump card
Premier Doug Ford has let it be known just how far he’s ready to go to enforce what he says is the will of Ontario voters.In a move unparalleled in Ontario history and precedent-setting on the national level, Ford has vowed to use the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure the downsizing of Toronto’s city council.And he says Ottawa is on his radar, too.Ontario’s Superior Court on Monday struck down the province’s bid to cut Toronto’s council to 25 seats from 47. In doing so, Justice Edward Belobaba deemed the new government’s legislation rushed and unconstitutional.But Ford described that ruling as “deeply, deeply concerning,” and announced his extraordinary step to override it, saying, “What’s extraordinary is a democratically elected government being tried to be shut down by the courts.”Meanwhile, Ford said he’s been hearing appeals from the Ottawa area in the wake of his move to trim the Toronto council.Supporters laud Ford’s moves as bold. However columnist Andrew Coyne concludes they may also have made comparisons between the premier and U.S. President Donald Trump a little more apt.Premier Doug Ford took the unprecedented step Monday of invoking a rarely used charter provision known as the notwithstanding clause to push ahead with his plan to slash the size of Toronto’s city council in the middle of a municipal election, despite a court deeming the move unconstitutional.Ford said his Progressive Conservative government would also appeal the judgment, which concluded the province’s council cutting legislation was hurriedly enacted and interfered with the right to freedom of expression for both candidates and voters.“I believe the judge’s decision is deeply, deeply concerning,” Ford said hours after the scathing court ruling. “The result is unacceptable to the people of Ontario.”Ford’s use of the notwithstanding clause, which gives provincial legislatures or Parliament the ability to override certain portions of the charter for a five-year term, drew swift condemnation from critics, who said the size of Toronto’s city council was not the kind of issue the constitutional provision was designed to deal with.The premier, whose government is facing other legal challenges on controversial moves such as the scrapping of a modernized sex-ed curriculum, said he “won’t be shy ” about using the notwithstanding clause — known as Section 33 of the charter — again in the future.“My concern is democracy,” the premier said. “What’s extraordinary is a democratically elected government being tried to be shut down by the courts ... that should be concerning to every single person in Ontario.”Toronto Mayor John Tory called the use of the notwithstanding clause a “gross overreach” of the province’s powers.“To use an oversized hammer to abridge the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of our country, as if the matter of how many councillors we have for this election is some sort of national emergency involving the overriding of fundamental rights, is a mistake,” he said.Tory said the city will oppose an application expected from the province to stay the judge’s decision pending an appeal. The mayor also said city staff will advise councillors at a special meeting on Thursday how the municipality can proceed with the upcoming Oct. 22 election. Tory also promised that if he is re-elected this fall he will try to take the issue to residents in a referendum.Bill 5 cuts the size of Toronto’s city council from 47 seats to 25, aligning them with federal and provincial ridings. Ford argued the move will improve decisionmaking and save $25 million.
Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark in Toronto on Monday. Ford is pushing ahead with plans for shrinking Toronto council.
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