Greenpeace suing Ontario government over cap-and-trade cancellation

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

As Ontario Premier Doug Ford gets set to recall the legislature in order to push his Better Local Government Act through, using the notwithstanding clause, there is new speculation about similar legislation in other cities.

In a scathing decision, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba said 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.

The judge 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. "The people of Ontario are going to hear the results of the inquiry and the line-item-by-line-item audit we're doing and just fasten your seatbelts because it's going to be shocking".

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.

"We do not, I repeat, we do not have plans for similar legislation in our near future", he said. "Governments must follow good democratic processes". He also said it would save $25 million. He also stated that the government would appeal the court's decision.

The council-cutting legislation passed late last month and aligned the city's ward map with federal ridings in time for the October 22 municipal election.

"As you introduce changes you increase the likelihood of error", he said. "It's an uphill struggle but that doesn't mean that something won't be found or that some advice won't be offered when we meet on Thursday". "Many candidates, particularly people of colour, LGBTQ, and young candidates, who have put their lives on hold to run for office, will now get their fair chance to express themselves in a free and fair election".

Trudeau said he and his government are staunch supporters and defenders of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it provides a set of guarantees that Canadians value and identify with as fundamental safeguards.

"There is no evidence that any other options or approaches were considered or that any consultation ever took place", Belobaba 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".

Until then, democracy will survive intact because Toronto council will have 25 members (plus the mayor), instead of 47, despite the hysteria of Ford's critics.

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"By invoking the notwithstanding clause, Doug Ford is actually putting all of us in a hard situation", Wynne said, later noting that she thinks the move is risky and like taking a "sledgehammer to a fly".

His plan wasn't mentioned during the province's spring election campaign or in the throne speech.

"That would simply be a tantrum by the premier of this province", she said.

"There has been limited use of the notwithstanding clause across Canada. and usually on significant issues, " McMaster University political science professor Greg Flynn told The Canadian Press.

"The message that needs to be coming from the government is not that 'judges can't overturn laws or shouldn't overturn laws, '" he said.

Beyond such circumstances, the most important thing a federal government can do to play a leadership role in preserving rights and freedoms is to refrain from ever relying on the provision, he added.

Tory called Ford's plan to use the notwithstanding clause a "gross overreach" of the province's powers, while NDP Leader Andrea Horwath took it one step further and described it as an "abuse of power".

Ford has previously argued that "thousands of people" have told him that Toronto's city council, which he served on for one term alongside his late brother and former mayor Rob ford, is ineffective and "dysfunctonal".

"This is a risky sign of what this government is willing to do", he said.

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