Ontario PC leader Doug Ford on a campaign stop in London, May 18, 2018. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Ford to fight Toronto council court ruling

For the first time in Ontario’s history, its government plans to use the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution.

Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that his government will invoke the clause in response to a judge’s ruling that said his move to cut the size of Toronto city council by nearly half was in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Canada’s Constitution makes it clear. The province has exclusive responsibility over municipalities,” Ford said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. “The Better Local Government Act will reduce the size and cost of government while reducing dysfunction at City Hall. The people who are most vocal and fighting this move are a small group of left-wing councillors looking to continue their free ride on the taxpayers’ dollar and a network of activist groups who have entrenched their power under the status quo.”

In his ruling, Justice Edward Belobaba said the move to shrink Toronto city council from 47 seats to 25 in time for the October 22 election violated election candidate’s freedom of expression. Ford said his government will immediately appeal the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“I believe this decision is deeply concerning and wrong and the result is unacceptable to the people of Ontario,” Ford said. “If you want to make new laws in Ontario — or in Canada — you first must seek a mandate from the people.”

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.

Ward 24 Councillor Joe Cressy did not mince words in a tweet he sent out after Ford’s announcement.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also took aim at Ford, calling his decision to use the notwithstanding clause an “unprecedented abuse of power.”

“Invoking the notwithstanding clause in a case like this is an unprecedented move, literally suspending the Charter rights of Ontario people in order to plow ahead with his revenge plot against his political enemies at Toronto City Hall,” said Horwath. “A good leader doesn’t just ask if he has the right to do it, but whether it’s the right thing to do.”