Premier Doug Ford vowed to “cut through the political games and delay tactics” before the wrap-up this morning of a rare midnight sitting of the Ontario Legislature to speed up the passage of a controversial bill to cut Toronto city council nearly in half.
Ford promised to do “whatever it takes” to address the “crumbling infrastructure right underneath our feet,” shortly before the debate of Bill 31 concluded after seven hours.
“Our plan would replace a broken City Hall, one where meetings can last for days and nothing gets done — a system that isn’t working,” he said during the session.
Bill 31, introduced and passed through first reading with overwhelming support from a Progressive Conservative majority last week, would see the number of councillors in Canada’s largest city dramatically slashed to 25 from 47. It aims to align the city’s municipal ward boundaries with provincial and federal electoral districts — with a little more than a month to go before Toronto’s municipal election.
MPPs will return to Queen’s Park for question period at 10:30 a.m. ET Monday.
Protesters shout down Ford
Throughout the night, hordes of protesters shouted to be allowed inside the Ontario Legislature as they voiced their opposition to the bill inside Queen’s Park as well, heckling Progressive Conservative legislators with cries of “shame, shame” until the Speaker cleared the public galleries.
People who had lined up to observe the overnight debate expressed their outrage at being shut out of the process, chanting “Let us in!” and “Our city, not Ford’s!” as police officers stood in front of the doors. The commotion could be heard from inside the house at times, and some protesters lingered into the early-morning hours.
‘A chilling effect on our democracy’
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath briefly left the debate to address the crowd, telling them she was proud to see so many people rally to defend charter rights at such an unusual time.
She pledged to keep fighting the PC government’s decision to push through the legislation — a message she later repeated to the assembled legislators.
“Interfering in ongoing elections has … a chilling effect on our democracy,” she said inside the house.
“The reality is this government behaved inappropriately, rammed this change forward without any kind of consultation while the elections were already underway.”
The Ontario government, meanwhile, cited the need for urgent action in justifying the late-night sitting, saying passing the bill would eliminate any uncertainty surrounding the upcoming municipal vote.