Protestors, opposition ejected in Toronto council debate
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.”