Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement at the Queens Park legislature in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Judge strikes down Doug Ford’s bill to reduce Toronto council size

An Ontario judge released his decision this morning on Toronto’s legal challenge of provincial legislation slashing the size of city council nearly in half.

An Ontario judge has struck down the provincial government’s efforts to slash the size of Toronto city council in the middle of an election, saying the move violated constitutional rights.

In a decision handed down early Monday, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba said Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservatives interfered with the right to freedom of expression for both candidates and voters when the province enacted the Better Local Government Act last month.

Bill 5 slashed 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 Oct. 22 election was already underway.

Belobaba sharply criticized the bill in his decision.

“There is no evidence that any other options or approaches were considered or that any consultation ever took place,” he wrote. “It appears that Bill 5 was hurriedly enacted to take effect in the middle of the city’s election without much thought at all, more out of pique than principle. “

The judge accepted arguments from city lawyers, who contended that reducing the number of councillors in the middle of an election is “discriminatory and arbitrary,” and violated the charter.

Related: Ontario elects Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative party

Related: Ontario Premier Doug Ford to slash size of Toronto city council nearly by half

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.

“It is only when a democratically elected government has clearly crossed the line that the ‘judicial umpire’ should intervene,” he said. “The province has clearly crossed the line.”

He noted that the province’s imposition of Bill 5 had two “constitutional deficiencies” that can’t be tolerated in a free and democratic society.

“The first relates to the timing of the law and its impact on candidates,” he said. “The second to its content and its impact on voters.”

Ford had argued the move would improve decision-making on the council, where he served one term. He also said the move would save $25 million.

The premier is set to respond to the ruling at noon.

Belobaba said last month that he was certain his decision would be appealed by the losing party.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the decision confirms that not even Ford is “above the law.”

“Ford’s efforts to put ideology above evidence and his personal agenda before democracy have real world consequences,” he said in a statement. ”Thankfully, the courts have put a check on the premier’s undemocratic actions for the second time now.”

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. Belobaba said his ruling does not impact that aspect of the bill.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stoked on science: Resolve for your resolutions

Jade Harvey Guest columnist As we progress further into January and the… Continue reading

Super blood wolf moon fills Okanagan skies, to photographers’ delight

Photographers had a rare chance Sunday to capture a rare lunar eclipse

2019 Budget: Revelstoke city staff recommending a five per cent property tax increase

Additional options that would expand services total another six per cent

Revelstoke Secondary School enthralls the audience with Trap

With a twist ending that had audience members laughing, perhaps uncomfortably, the… Continue reading

Okanagan Military Tattoo returns

Performances July 28 and July 28

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

One-third of pregnant women think cannabis won’t harm their baby: UBC

Review of six U.S. studies found doctors didn’t communicate health risks of pot use

No cash, no election sign policy pondered by B.C. city

A deposit could be required to put up election signs in 2022.

Heavy snowfall expected for Coquihalla, Okanagan valley

Coquihalla highway, the Connector, and Highway 3, from Princeton to Allison Pass are getting snow.

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

9 brains, 3 hearts: Some wild facts about octopuses

Things to know about the giant Pacific octopus, which is naturally found in the waters of the U.S. West coast, the Aleutian Islands and Japan

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Man charged in 7-Eleven fire in Shuswap granted bail

Accused facing arson charges released with 23 conditions including a 7 p.m. curfew

Most Read