Doug Ford Overrules Provincial Judge Over Toronto Council Size

A section of the judge’s ruling

A section of the judge’s ruling

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which was one of several intervenors in the legal challenge in support of Bill 5, called the judge's ruling a disappointment and encouraged the Ford government to appeal.

The judge said Bill 5 "substantially interfered with both the candidate's and the voter's right to freedom of expression" guaranteed by the Charter.

"So any time a government chooses to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the charter's protections, it has to be done deliberately, carefully and with the utmost forethought and reflection", Trudeau said during an event in Winnipeg. Belobaba called Bill 5 "profoundly unfair" and found that nothing the government's lawyers had presented could reasonably explain why the 47-ward election for a city of almost 3 million people needed to be cancelled by legislative fiat. It allows the government to override certain portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday his Progressive Conservative government would invoke a rarely used notwithstanding clause in order to go ahead with its plan to cut the size of Toronto city council despite a court decision that ruled the move unconstitutional.

Ford will recall the legislature on Wednesday to re-introduce the bill, which highly regarded Justice Edward Belobaba struck down hours earlier as unconstitutional for violating freedom of expression for candidates and effective representation. "Governments must follow good democratic processes".

Ford, a failed Toronto mayoral candidate and single-term city councillor, argued the move will improve decision-making and save $25 million.

"I believe the judge's decision is deeply concerning and the result is unacceptable to the people of Ontario", Ford said.

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Until then, democracy will survive intact because Toronto council will have 25 members (plus the mayor), instead of 47, despite the hysteria of Ford's critics.

Legislation to slash Toronto's council almost in half in the middle of the municipal election campaign was struck down by the courts this week after a judge found it violated the right to freedom of expression for both candidates and voters.

Bill 5 also cancelled planned elections for the head of council position in the regional municipalities of Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara, turning them into appointed roles.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called the use of the notwithstanding clause a "gross overreach" of the province's powers. "The Better Local Government Act will reduce the size and cost of government while reducing dysfunction at City Hall". Paula Fletcher said if the Ford government invokes the notwithstanding clause, they would be a "laughing stock" in Canada.

Ford had said in the past that Ottawa and Toronto city councils are not comparable, calling the comparison one of apples to oranges.

"Democracy does not belong to a few of us, it belongs to all of us", he said.

"I have a lot of friends who were running in this particular election, people who I've mentored, people who I've encouraged to run, and the last thing we wanted to do was engage in some form of 'The Hunger Games, '" she said.

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The spokesperson said advance voting will begin on October 10 and nominations for candidates under the 47-ward model were closed on July 27 and certified. Belobaba has noted that he was certain the losing party would appeal.

Horwath accused Ford of exacting revenge on those who opposed him when he was councillor.

Canada has a "problem" when a provincial premier can overrule the country's courts, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said Tuesday.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam tweeted that an appeal for the province would be a "steep uphill climb".

Ford vowed to eliminate the system and fight Ottawa's carbon pricing plan during the spring election campaign.

Coun. Mike Layton said he hopes the ruling serves as a "lesson" to Doug Ford and his government.

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