On September 10th, 2018 the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, announced that he will be invoking the so-called ‘Notwithstanding clause’ in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 33.)
This decision is in response to a court decision that the Ontario Government cannot unilaterally step in and cut the size of the City of Toronto’s council from 47 members to 25.
The Government had passed The Better Local Government Act (‘Bill 5’) in August to reduced the size of city council in Toronto, as well as removing the rights of residents in several regions to elect a Regional Chairman. The City of Toronto then went to court over the legislation as the legislation passed after the nomination period ended for the upcoming municipal elections on October 22nd.
On the morning of September 10th, the court ruled that the act was unconstitutional as it infringed on the rights of voters to elect 47 councillors. The Government plans to appeal the decision.
However, Premier Ford has indicated that he is willing to use Section 33 whenever he wants to in the future as well. This decision scares me. The point of Section 33 is that it should be only used in extreme situations, not simply because a Government did not like a court’s decision. Also, the threat to use it again in the future suggests that the Premier is only interested in his own viewpoints and does not care how others feel.
Where is the democracy in this? The Government never campaigned on this during the recent election (held on June 7th, 2018) and passed this legislation without consulting the citizens in the areas affected. Plus, the only city to see its council size slashed by almost 50% is Toronto – no other city is losing any councillors at all. If the Premier cares about the citizens of this province then he should not invoke Section 33, and should only make changes to council after the upcoming municipal election – and then only after consulting with the residents of Toronto.
The decision of the Provincial Government is not correct and makes me nervous about how far the current Premier is willing to go to do what he wants.