Doug Ford invoking notwithstanding clause in order to cut Toronto city council size

By News Staff

Premier Doug Ford is invoking the notwithstanding clause in order to pass Bill 5 that cuts the size of Toronto city council.

The clause is contained in section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian constitution. It gives parliament or provincial legislatures the power to override certain portions of the charter.

The move comes after a judge ruled earlier on Monday not to allow the province to cut Toronto city council by nearly half because it would have “substantially interfered with both the candidate’s and the voter’s right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“We have instructed our legal council to immediately commence appeal proceedings to the Ontario court of appeal,” Ford said Monday.

Bill 5 would have cut council from 47 seats to 25 seats. The legislation had passed last month and aligned the city’s ward map with federal ridings, a move Premier Doug Ford has argued would improve decision-making and save $25 million.

Ford insisted that experts across the country agreed that Bill 5 was legal and constitutional and it was “shocking” that the court overturned it. He added that the Tory government will use “every tool at our disposal” to uphold the constitution and democratic rights of the people of Ontario.

“I was elected. The judge was appointed,” said Ford when asked if he was concerned with being labelled a dictator for this unprecedented move.

“What is very concerning moving forward, is if our decisions in changing the laws to make this province better, make it more efficient, to build transit, to build infrastructure, to build housing … is being shot down by the courts. That’s scary, that’s disturbing. That is disturbing to the public that elected democratically elected governments,” Ford said.

Ford says he will bring back legislature on Wednesday to debate Bill 5 and add the notwithstanding clause to it.

“I have already called an emergency meeting of my cabinet to discuss this response, and I have notified the Lieutenant Governor of our intention to bring back the legislature this week,” he said. “Our first order of business will be to reintroduce the better local government act and with it, invoke section 33 of the constitution.”

When asked if MPPs will be expected to vote in step with him, Ford insisted it will be a free vote.

This will be the first time that the clause will be used in Ontario’s history.

The entire court ruling against council cuts is below:

Judge’s ruling on Bill 5 by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Opposition leader Andrea Horwath said Ford’s actions are a “personal vendetta” and she will not support any move by Ford to appeal the court’s decision.

She called the decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause “irresponsible”. He is “literally suspending the Charter of Rights of the Ontario people in order to plough ahead with his revenge plot against his political enemies at Toronto city hall.” said Horwath.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the whole process is “disrespectful to democracy.”

In a press conference Monday evening, Tory questioned why Ford is so insistent on pushing through Bill 5 at this point in time, in the middle of a municipal election and urged MPPs to question that before they vote on Bill 5 again.

“Why is it so important to have these changes in place, whatever you may think of them, for this election, to the point that you would override the charter of rights and freedoms for the first time in the history of the province of Ontario?” Tory asked. “Why does this particular change, the size of Toronto’s city council at this particular time in the middle of an election qualify as one of those very extraordinary circumstances?”

Tory said he will ask the mayors of other major cities for their support and advice on the “extraordinary curtailment of rights as it relates to this city.”

He met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday evening to speak about his concerns over the province using the notwithstanding clause.

Tory said in a tweet, “I appreciate his support for democratic principles, democratic institutions, and the importance of respecting cities.”

“To use an over-sized 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.

If re-elected as mayor, Tory says he plans to obtain council approval to hold a city-wide referendum, allowing people to have a real say on this issue. He added it will ensure the Premier and the government of Ontario will receive a clear statement of the public’s view on this matter.

Tory will call a special city council meeting Thursday after Bill 5 is voted on in the legislature on Wednesday.

Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc released a statement calling Monday’s announcement “disappointing,” and said, “Ontarians will ultimately judge the actions of their provincial government.”

He added, “The notwithstanding clause is an extraordinary part of the Constitution that should only be used in the most exceptional of cases, after serious and sober consideration.”

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