Doug Ford invoking notwithstanding clause in order to cut Toronto city council size

Premier Doug Ford is invoking the notwithstanding clause in order to pass Bill 5 that cuts the size of Toronto city council.

The clause is contained in section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian constitution. It gives parliament or provincial legislatures the power to override certain portions of the charter.

The move comes after a judge ruled earlier on Monday not to allow the province to cut Toronto city council by nearly half because it would have “substantially interfered with both the candidate’s and the voter’s right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“We have instructed our legal council to immediately commence appeal proceedings to the Ontario court of appeal,” Ford said Monday.

Bill 5 would have cut council from 47 seats to 25 seats. The legislation had passed last month and aligned the city’s ward map with federal ridings, a move Premier Doug Ford has argued would improve decision-making and save $25 million.

Ford insisted that experts across the country agreed that Bill 5 was legal and constitutional and it was “shocking” that the court overturned it. He added that the Tory government will use “every tool at our disposal” to uphold the constitution and democratic rights of the people of Ontario.

“I was elected. The judge was appointed,” said Ford when asked if he was concerned with being labelled a dictator for this unprecedented move.

“What is very concerning moving forward, is if our decisions in changing the laws to make this province better, make it more efficient, to build transit, to build infrastructure, to build housing … is being shot down by the courts. That’s scary, that’s disturbing. That is disturbing to the public that elected democratically elected governments,” Ford said.

Ford says he will bring back legislature this week to debate Bill 5 and add the notwithstanding clause to it.

“I have already called an emergency meeting of my cabinet to discuss this response, and I have notified the Lieutenant Governor of our intention to bring back the legislature this week,” he said. “Our first order of business will be to reintroduce the better local government act and with it, invoke section 33 of the constitution.”

When asked if MPs will be expected to vote in step with him, Ford insisted it will be a free vote.

This will be the first time that the clause will be used in Ontario’s history.

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