Judge strikes down bill to reduce Toronto council size

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

Earlier today, an Ontario judge ruled against Ford's planned cuts to Toronto city council.

In light of the ruling, a spokesperson for the city confirmed Monday that the election will proceed as scheduled on October 22 on the basis of 47 wards.

City lawyers contended that reducing the number of councillors in the middle of an election was "discriminatory and arbitrary", and violated the charter - arguments Belobaba accepted.

Tory said he believes the province's three options going forward include letting the ruling stand, appealing the ruling, and invoking the Charter's notwithstanding clause.

Toronto city staff said they will proceed with the election on the basis of a 47-ward structure and it was unclear how Ford's response would affect those plans.

"I was elected", he said firmly, "the judge was appointed".

In a tweet Monday night, Tory said he had met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Toronto for a women's summit, to discuss his concerns about the province's use of the notwithstanding clause.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he's received calls from Ottawa residents and "all over the province" in the wake of his plan to reduce the size of Toronto city council, stoking speculation that he hasn't ruled out using the province's powers to shrink other local governments.

Ontario's Liberals called Ford's decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause unreasonable and said it would lead to "chaos and constitutional mayhem" in Ontario.

But no matter what the appeal court decides, the 2018 Toronto election will go ahead with the downsized council Ford wants.

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However, legal counsel for protesters in B.C. might get some value from trying to have the injunction set aside, seeing as the permits have now been ruled not to be legal.

Some premiers, most notably Saskatchewan New Democrat Allan Blakeney and Alberta Progressive Conservative Peter Lougheed, anxious that a constitutionally entrenched Charter could, as in the USA, prevent legislators from enacting socially useful legislation.

She added that she is certain the judge would have crafted his ruling to withstand an appeal.

A number of Toronto city councillors also applauded the judgement. Joe Mihevic, who is running for re-election, wrote on Twitter.

At his press conference, Ford complained to reporters that a "democratically elected government" is being "shut down by the courts". Kristyn Wong-Tam said many council candidates held off registering in the 25-ward system pending the outcome of the court case.

Horwath accused Ford of exacting revenge on those who opposed him when he was councillor. To use Section 33 then to maintain a preferred size of a city council is completely out of proportion - like using a drone strike to deal with a boisterous block party. For instance, the 2010 Citizens United decision gutted laws meant to control campaign financing by declaring corporate election spending a form of constitutionally protected free speech.

Paula Fletcher said if the Ford government invokes the notwithstanding clause, they would be a "laughing stock" in Canada. The idea that governments might see their legislative goals struck down by a single judge was, he said, "scary".

"This premier has served notice that he doesn't respect other peoples' rights and, despite his token protestations to the contrary, he doesn't respect the role of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing them."

Ford said he will take immediate action to ensure Bill 5 remains in effect.

Belobaba said he could not make a ruling in regards to the selection process for the regional chair positions in York Region, Muskoka, Niagara, and Peel Region. "It's apples and oranges, apples and oranges, when you compare a town the size of Ottawa, a attractive city, compared to a city the size of Toronto, you can't even compare it".

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