Economy

Ford suggests Ottawans want smaller city council

Ford suggests Ottawans want smaller city council

Ford, who abruptly announced the coucnil-cutting plan in late July, had argued the move would improve decision-making on the council, where he served one term.

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. Justice Edward Belobaba found Bill 5 to be a breach of the Charter and not justified.

At a press conference, Ford said while he respects the court's decision, he wants to make the government more efficient.

"There is no evidence that any other options or approaches were considered or that any consultation ever took place", Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba wrote in his decision.

Ford had previously said that Ottawa was a special case.

This was never a fight the premier needed to pick, and it's hardly the fault of the attorney general's office that the government's lawyers failed to convincingly defend a bill that was slapped together in a hurry with no evidence that it was needed: Belobaba found that, despite the premier's repeated assertions to the contrary, there was no evidence that council is "dysfunctional".

The decision to use the notwithstanding clause has opened Ford to criticism from both opposition MPPs at Queen's Park and members of Toronto city council. "These councillors worry about themselves and holding on to power". Belobaba said his ruling does not impact that aspect of the bill.

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Belobaba said the province's Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, infringed Charter rights "because the bill was enacted in the middle of an ongoing election campaign and it breached the municipal candidate's freedom of expression". "It's apples and oranges, apples and oranges, when you compare a town the size of Ottawa, a handsome city, compared to a city the size of Toronto, you can't even compare it". Belobaba acknowledged that the timing of the province's legislation had been a key factor, saying the government was free to table similar legislation in the future.

Bill 5 cut the size of Toronto's city council from 47 seats to 25, aligning them with federal ridings, despite the fact that the campaign for the fall election was already underway.

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.

Speaking to reporters after the ruling, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he welcomed Belobaba's decision.

The council-cutting legislation passed late last month and aligned the city's ward map with federal ridings in time for the October 22 municipal election.

In doing so, Mr. Ford ensured not only that Toronto's impending elections, just six weeks away, will be a mess - he also put democracy in Ontario on a unsafe path. "A good leader doesn't just ask if he has the right to do it, but whether it's the right thing to do".


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