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

Cloverdale Toastmasters celebrate 25 years of learning and laughter

Cloverdale club is a high achieving, yet laid-back Toastmasters group

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

Crime Stoppers urges Lower Mainland residents to check these 9 safety items every night

Home security tips demonstrated at Cloverdale house on Wednesday

Surrey RCMP conducting drug-related search warrant

Traffic closed in both directions on 128th Street, between 64th and 66th Avenue

Queen Elizabeth students hit $100K in donations to Surrey Hospital Foundation

Secondary students have been raising funds for a decade through the Roots & Rhythms event

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Men caught with illegal gun near Burnaby elementary school

They were sitting in a parked car near Cameron Elementary

Home care for B.C.’s elderly is too expensive and falls short: watchdog

Report says seniors must pay $8,800 a year for daily visits under provincial home support program

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Pair of B.C. cities crack Ashley Madison’s ‘Infidelity Hotlist’

Data from the website reveals Abbotsford and Kelowna hottest spots for cheaters

Life’s work of talented B.C. sculptor leads to leukemia

Former Salmon Arm resident warns of dangers of chemical contact

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Most Read