Ontario Premier Doug Ford will invoke the constitutional notwithstanding clause to override a judge’s decision that blocks his government from slashing the size of Toronto city council nearly in half.
This step would make Ford the first Ontario premier to ever use the clause, which allows the government to create laws that operate in spite of certain charter rights that the laws appear to violate. He also threatened to use the clause again in the future but didn’t provide any specifics.
Justice Edward Belobaba, in an unprecedented and scathing decision, ruled Monday that Ford’s Progressive Conservative government “clearly crossed the line” with its Better Local Government Act, which aligns municipal ward boundaries with provincial ridings, cutting the potential number of councillors from 47 to 25 after the Oct. 22 election.
“We’re taking a stand,” Ford said of the court decision. “The result is unacceptable.”
In his highly anticipated ruling, Belobaba calls the act “unconstitutional.”
“Passing a law that changes the city’s electoral districts in the middle of its election and undermines the overall fairness of the election is antithetical to the core principles of our democracy,” Belobaba says in his written decision.
Ford’s threat to overrule the judge again leaves the city’s election process in limbo.
The city’s clerk’s office had rearranged the race to fit the government’s 25-ward plan, but was in the process of reverting to the 47-ward system following the judge’s decision.