Decision expected today in Toronto council legal challenge

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

Bill 5 cut 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 fall election was already underway.

There is real gut-level truth to what Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday, as he announced that he's recalling the Legislature and will invoke the sacred notwithstanding clause to override the Ontario Superior Court decision which earlier in the day tossed his attempt to cut Toronto City Council nearly in half.

A judge has struck down provincial legislation that would have cut the size of Toronto city council almost in half in the middle of an election.

Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is calling on John Tory to "come clean" about conversations he may have had with Premier Doug Ford about the size of city council.

In his ruling, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found the province crossed the line when it rushed to enact the legislation - known as Bill 5 - in July without any consultation.

Belobaba said he could not make a ruling in regards to the selection process for the regional chair positions in York Region, Muskoka, Niagara, and Peel Region.

"And as New Democrats, we're going to keep reminding Ontarians that it doesn't have to be this way".

"While the timing of the bill was not ideal. this bill was introduced almost three months before the election date, which is still longer than federal and provincial writ periods", CTF's federal director Aaron Wudrick said in a statement.

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

By throwing 47 municipal races into disarray, after "candidates' time and money had been invested within the (pre-existing) boundaries", the government breached the free expression rights of council candidate Rocco Achampong, Belobaba found.

"To use an oversized hammer to abridge the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of our country, as if the matter of how many councillors we have for this election is some sort of national emergency involving the overriding of fundamental rights, is a mistake", he said.

The legislation, which passed last month, aligns the city's ward map with federal ridings in time for the October 22 municipal election, a move Premier Doug Ford has argued will improve decision-making and save $25 million.

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The premier said the province would also appeal the court decision, which said the legislation - called the Better Local Government Act - was hurriedly enacted in the middle of a municipal election and interfered with the right to freedom of expression for both candidates and voters.

Speaking to CP24 at city hall, Coun. "Justice Belobaba is an experienced and highly regarded judge, and his ruling is a carefully reasoned and thoughtfully crafted vindication of core constitutional rights".

Ford said he'd be recalling the legislature this week to introduce legislation that will invoke the notwithstanding clause.

"That would simply be a tantrum by the premier of this province", she said. But the premier said Monday that he was elected on a mandate of making the province more efficient.

Doug Ford is the kind of politician who doesn't mind stirring up a little needless chaos.

"It is inexcusable that the Ford government targeted only the city of Toronto for these dramatic changes", Fletcher said.

"This is good news for local democracy and to unfair government interference with election", Layton tweeted.

Wiseman said the reduction to 25 wards will see some longtime incumbents opt not to run and others square off against each other for a seat.

"I believe this decision is deeply concerning and wrong and the result is unacceptable to the people of Ontario", concluded Ford.

"You notice that a lot of the progressive councillors did not register in the 25-ward system".

"The issue here is whether he was really drawing in elements from another Charter right, which is the Section 3 right to vote", she wrote.

"I don't object to rulings being sarcastic or spicy if they expose the flaws in particularly government thinking when a right's at stake, but this is basically bringing in Twitter snark into a judgment and it did nothing to add to the judge's logic", he told HuffPost Canada Monday.

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