Tempers flared in Toronto council chambers on Friday evening during a debate over Premier Doug Ford’s plan to slash council’s size by almost half.
Hours earlier, Ford announced his government will introduce legislation to reduce the number of seats from 47 to 25, aligning city wards with federal ridings — a plan that wasn’t outlined during the spring election campaign or mentioned in the province’s throne speech earlier this month.
But during the debate over the emergency motion on the planned cuts, Coun. Mike Layton triggered a shouting match by implying Mayor John Tory knew about the plan beforehand and didn’t give council any warning.
“Who knew about this in advance? Because it has been suggested that somebody knew about this in advance and didn’t bring it to our attention,” Layton said.
“If we hadn’t scheduled the meeting here today we would have had no ability to debate this — absolutely no ability to debate this. We were going to descend into chaos, and somebody knew in advance.”
Tory replied he had a 50-second discussion that went nowhere and gave him no indication that the Ontario government had any intention of taking action.
“If I brought every rumour to this chamber that came from musings of people out there … we’d be here having meetings all the time,” Tory said.
“I think you should stand in your place and apologize to me and to this chamber for getting up in that way where you’re just kind of implying it but not saying it. Get up if you have the balls to do it and say it.”
Earlier, when asked if he had been given advance notice of Ford’s plan, Tory said the premier made a “passing reference” to the idea in a meeting two weeks ago but the matter was dropped.
“I didn’t think it was anything that was going to be taken seriously,” Tory said. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t even think that was anything that was even possible.’”
The mayor’s emergency motion would have council request Ontario to conduct a binding referendum on the legislation before proceeding with it.
It would also have the city solicitor consider the validity and constitutionality of the proposed bill, “including its potential violation of the rights of the citizens of Toronto to fair and effective representation.”
With files from The Canadian Press