City clerk no longer accepting nominations for Toronto election after court ruling

James Bowler Moose FM Staff

James Bowler Moose FM Staff

It was in July that Ford's newly-elected government announced it would enact legislation to reduce the number of city wards and councillors from 47 to 25, in the process nearly doubling the ward populations.

On Monday morning, Justice Edward Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court found that the Progressive Conservatives' Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, violated Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression - which itself includes, Belobaba declared, the right to meaningfully participate in municipal elections.

She said that while the October 22 election is now likely to be held on the basis of the 25-ward model backed by Ford, city council should nonetheless look at tools to enhance representation in the city, including the possible introduction of new community councils. Now here comes Premier Doug Ford to scythe off 22 seats unilaterally - further pitting downtowners against suburbanites, some of whom support the government's move, and further highlighting the political impotence of the country's largest city and economic capital.

The Ontario government's unprecedented use of the notwithstanding clause in order to proceed with plans to cut the size of Toronto's city council has raised some questions about this rarely used section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Other portions of the Better Local Government Act, which eliminated planned elections for regional chairs in the Muskoka, Niagara, Peel and York regions, remain in effect.

"The current gridlock has crippled Toronto City Hall and we'll replace this broken system where transit, infrastructure and housing can not get built", said Ford. Cutting the number of wards part-way through the election campaign would only make matters worse.

While the idea was never mentioned during the campaign before the June 7 provincial vote that put Mr. Ford into power at Queen's Park, the former Toronto councillor and mayoral candidate had long held that Toronto's "dysfunctional" council needed to be cut down in size. "We can and will defend our public services and rights in this province", said Buckley.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he will use the notwithstanding clause in attempt to force cuts to Toronto council. "Justice Belobaba is an experienced and highly regarded judge, and his ruling is a carefully reasoned and thoughtfully crafted vindication of core constitutional rights". Indeed, Premier Ford said he is prepared to use the notwithstanding clause again - leaving the clear impression that it will be his preferred response to any judicial setbacks.

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

"The notwithstanding clause was put there for very extraordinary circumstances and very extraordinary instances and you'd have to ask yourself why does this change, this particular change at this time, qualify as one of those", Tory said.

Doug Ford is the kind of politician who doesn't mind stirring up a little needless chaos.

The fact is, one unelected judge set aside the will of a democratically elected government which was smart enough to know that new governments either get the big stuff done early in their mandate or they drop it, because by year two, or three, all governments are in re-election mode.

Jennifer Hollett, another council candidate, said in a tweet: "We did it!" "For not only councillors, but frankly residents of our city to understand what the new rules are, what the new timelines are, what the new wards are". "Nominations under the 25-ward model closed following the Superior Court ruling", said the city's Beth Waldman by email.

"The government has said it will appeal the decision but in the next few days, Ontarians will continue the work of protecting and enhancing our rights in this province - from human rights to education to workers' rights across Ontario", said Buckley.

"We're waiting to hear", Perks told the Star on Tuesday.

And besides, Ford et al were elected and judges aren't.

"The issue here is whether he was really drawing in elements from another Charter right, which is the Section 3 right to vote", she wrote.

"So I trust they'll come to some resolution on that".

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