Ford fights back on ruling

13 September, 2018, 06:05 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • A section of the judge’s ruling

An Ontario Superior Court judge has declared that Premier Doug Ford's attempt to slash the Toronto city council during an election is unconstitutional.

After candidates, volunteers and community groups successfully challenged the legislation in court last month, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba ruled Monday that the parts of Bill 5 that applied to Toronto's election were no longer in force and the election would return to the way it was on July 27, with 509 candidates for councillor and school board trustee seats.

Belobaba acknowledged the importance of exercising judicial restraint when it comes to the decisions of governments but said that in this case, it was appropriate for the court to act. "The result is unacceptable to the people of Ontario".

"And as New Democrats, we're going to keep reminding Ontarians that it doesn't have to be this way". 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. Etobicoke councillor John Campbell and appointed downtown councillor Lucy Troisi, who was Mayor John Tory's pick to replace the late Pam McConnell, also did not sign up in the 25-ward race but did in the 47-ward election.

"As one of the parties in this case, the City of Toronto has been notified that the judge will send his decision to legal counsel on Monday at 8 a.m.", Waldman said Saturday in an email.

Ford announced that his government will immediately recall Ontario's Legislature and introduce legislation that, if passed, will invoke Section 33 of the Constitution and ensure the Better Local Government Act is preserved in time for the October 22 Municipal Election. "It's an uphill struggle but that doesn't mean that something won't be found or that some advice won't be offered when we meet on Thursday".

"There is no evidence that any other options or approaches were considered or that any consultation ever took place", Belobaba wrote.

Bill 5 cuts the size of Toronto's city council from 47 seats to 25, aligning them with federal and provincial ridings.

Howard Anglin, director of the Canadian Construction Foundation and former deputy chief of staff to then-prime minister Stephen Harper, called the decision "looney tunes" and said that it poorly reasoned and "definitely a candidate" for invoking the notwithstanding clause - a legal override of the Charter that Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he plans to use for the first time in the province's history.

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His plan wasn't mentioned during the province's spring election campaign or in the throne speech.

"That would simply be a tantrum by the premier of this province", she said.

Macfarlane said he expects the government to appeal the ruling, though he's not sure if it would be able to win that way because many aspects of Bill 5, he said, are "so manifestly unfair".

Crickets aside, Macfarlane said he had issues with the ruling itself. "This would seem to be relatively narrow but it would set a really unsafe precedent". There is also the question of whether the PC government will challenge Judge Belobaba's interpretation of the law. "(It) has to be, 'judges have a mandate to overturn unconstitutional laws, but that in this particular instance we disagree with the constitutional reasoning'".

Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath affirmed that "democracy includes an independent judiciary" and described Ford's move as a "personal vendetta against his political enemies at City Hall".

To say it's been an interesting day in Toronto politics is an understatement. "A good leader doesn't just ask if he has the right to do it, but whether it's the right thing to do".

To me, that lends credence to the argument by Ford's critics that this is really about Ford settling scores with Tory and city council, from his own days at City Hall.

"This is a unsafe sign of what this government is willing to do", he said.

"When Doug Ford tried to ram through this bill, he tried to silence newcomers to the political process and underrepresented voices", CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn said in a statement.

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