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

?Esdilagh First Nation receives Rural Dividend grant

The provincial funding will help ?Esdilagh develop and maintain a trail network

BC Wildfire Service fighting new fire near Comstock Lake

The fire is 76 hectares in size and currently out of control

Quesnel SPCA appeals for donations for second dog after sudden liver failure

Roxi’s medical costs are estimated to be about $3,050

Exciting egg hunt in Bouchie Lake

Up to 100 kids took part in the hunt and crafts at the Bouchie Lake Rec Centre

St. Ann’s celebrates Earth Day

Students at the Quesnel school recycled, picked up trash and planted trees

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Singh says childhood abuse steeled him for scrutiny and stress of politics

He recounts the assaults for the first time in his book Love & Courage

Despite five extra weeks’ parental leave in Canada, dads still face stigma: survey

One reason people said dads don’t need leave is because they can just bond with their kids at weekend

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

Most Read