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

Mold shuts down construction at QC supportive housing project

Construction of the new 19-unit modular housing complex in Queen Charlotte has… Continue reading

Conservation office launches new gaurdian role for Haida Gwaii

Possition developed in part to improve partnerships with Haida Nation

Kitimat resident is Conservative choice for fall election

Claire Rattée is a former Kitimat councillor

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

All Native Basketball Tournament: Intermediate Finals

All Native Basketball Tournament: Intermediate Finals

VIDEO: Massive elk herd runs across Washington State highway

Elk have been making an appearance in the Pacific Northwest

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

Winter storm freezes U.S., halts air travel

Storm dumps snow or heavy rain, snarls travel in much of U.S.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Skier sued me to exploit my fame, wealth

The incident happened in Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Missing Surrey snowshoer caught in avalanche found dead on Vancouver mountain

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

Most Read