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

CSRD wants immediate Provincial action to fund Newsome Creek study

Erosion along the creek is causing hazardous situation for residents

New trustees sworn in for North Okanagan-Shuswap School District

First official board meeting set for Tuesday, Nov. 20

Need outstrips funds at Shuswap Children’s Association

Raffle to help provide vital services to children with developmental delays or disabilities

Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ fall in close 3-2 loss against Merritt Centennials

Home ice winning streak brought to a close by division leaders

Salmon Arm council approves two of three retail cannabis store applications

One application for uptown location denied due to proximity to local schools

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

South region forestry workers nearly in legal strike position

Talks broke down between USW and IFLRA, resulting in booking out of provincial mediator

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in B.C. classroom (updated)

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Most Read