Pro­tes­tors, op­po­si­tion ejected in Toronto coun­cil de­bate

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Paola LORIGGIO, Shawn JEFFORDS

TORONTO — On­tario’s leg­is­la­ture plunged into chaos Wed­nes­day as pro­test­ers and most of the Op­po­si­tion were ejected for dis­rupt­ing the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re­vive a bill slash­ing Toronto’s city coun­cil nearly in half just days af­ter a judge found the leg­is­la­tion un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Shouts erupted from the pub­lic gallery and some heck­lers were led out in hand­cuffs as Premier Doug Ford ar­gued he was pro­tect­ing democ­racy by in­vok­ing a con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion to over­ride the court de­ci­sion, which found his plan to cut coun­cil dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign vi­o­lated free­dom of ex­pres­sion rights.

“This is about pre­serv­ing the will of the peo­ple, this is about pre­serv­ing democ­racy,” Ford said, cit­ing his Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives’ vic­tory in the spring elec­tion.

Asked whether he be­lieved in the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms, the premier said a demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment should not be de­railed by a “po­lit­i­cally ap­pointed” judge. Ford has main­tained cut­ting Toronto city coun­cil to 25 seats from 47 is nec­es­sary to stream­line de­ci­sion-mak­ing and save tax­payer money.

The coun­cil-cut­ting bill and the not­with­stand­ing clause that will en­sure its im­ple­men­ta­tion were in­tro­duced by Ford’s gov­ern­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon fol­low­ing a com­mo­tion from the Op­po­si­tion benches.

The New Democrats at­tempted to drown out the read­ing of the bill by bang­ing on their desks, prompt­ing the Speaker to kick most of their ranks, in­clud­ing Leader An­drea Hor­wath, out of the house. Hor­wath said her party mem­bers had launched their protest to show they wouldn’t ac­cept Ford’s “heavy-handed” de­ci­sion lightly.

Ear­lier in the day, mem­bers of the pub­lic in the leg­is­la­ture voiced their own dis­con­tent by cough­ing in uni­son to drown out the premier when he tried to speak. That dis­rup­tion quickly turned into a se­ries of shouts and heck­les.

“Shame on you, this is not democ­racy,” one man shouted at the premier.

“We are the peo­ple.”

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