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Judge rules against provincial cut to Toronto city council

Last Updated Sep 10, 2018 at 11:08 am EDT

Toronto City Council chambers. CITYNEWS

A judge ruled Monday not to allow the province to cut Toronto city council by nearly half.

The Oct. 22 municipal election will go ahead with 47 seats.

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.

The ruling against the cuts reads that the bill 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” and that the “province has clearly crossed the line.”

Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba also wrote in the ruling that he is “acutely aware of the appropriate role of the court in reviewing duly enacted federal or provincial legislation and the importance of judges exercising judicial deference and restraint. It is only when a democratically elected government has clearly crossed the line that the “judicial umpire” should intervene.”

Later on Monday morning, Mayor John Tory spoke to reporters saying, “We have stood up for Toronto and for our rights as a city.”

He also reiterated a sentiment he expressed back when the bill was announced, in that the province “can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.”

“That’s not fair to anyone and this is not a game. It is an election campaign — one of the most fundamental foundations of our democratic system. The court has agreed with that,” Tory said.

“Democracy does not belong to a few of us, it belongs to all of us. No law should every fail to take that into account.”

Ford tweeted that he’d have something to say at noon on Monday.

Lawyers for the City of Toronto had argued that reducing the number of councillors in the middle of an election is “discriminatory and arbitrary,” and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The province had argued that municipalities are “creatures of the Legislature” and have no recourse when it comes to the powers of the province over their affairs.

Lawyers for the Progressive Conservative government also said the legal challenges of the legislation have “no merit” and have asked for the cases to be dismissed and the province awarded costs.

The deadline for candidates to register in the municipal election is Sept. 14.

The entire ruling is below.

Judge’s ruling on Bill 5 by CityNewsToronto on Scribd