Toronto council votes to keep fighting province’s local government bill
Toronto city council voted on a series of motions to challenge the Ontario PC government’s legislation to cut council to 25 seats, including requesting the federal government use its power of disallowance.
Council convened for an emergency meeting Thursday to debate the city’s next steps after the provincial government introduced legislation that invokes the constitutional notwithstanding clause in order to move ahead with a 25-ward model.
A majority of councillors voted in favour of having the city solicitor challenge the province’s newest bill, which revises the previous Better Local Government Act with the constitutional clause.
Councillors also voted in favour of requesting the federal government allow municipalities to create their own charters and use their power to dismiss the province’s new legislation. There isn’t a lot of precedence to suggest that the motion to request disallowance has been successful, the city solicitor warned.
The special meeting opened with an address by Mayor John Tory, who said invoking the notwithstanding clause is an “unacceptable process.” He said the government’s move to invoke the constitutional clause “raises very big questions on matters such as this one and even bigger questions with regard to profoundly important matters that we may not even know about today.”
Toronto’s city clerk admitted she has a “huge concern” over the proceedings of the upcoming October municipal election and said she retained her own independent lawyer.
“Every hour that goes by, every day that goes by, creates greater uncertainty and raises in me a huge concern over the proper conduct of this election. I have to let council know that,” Watkiss said.
The clerk also said the city has “reached a tipping point” and both the 25-ward and 47-ward models are “becoming virtually impossible for us to carry out.”
Steve Clark, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, said at Queen’s Park today he has “all the confidence in the world” that Toronto will be able to hold a fair election Oct. 22.
Watkiss clarified that she and her staff are moving ahead with 47 wards after Ontario Superior Court judge Edward Belobaba ruled Monday morning that the provincial government’s legislation to cut Toronto council to 25 seats is “unconstitutional.”
She also said the clerk’s office has prepared two sets of voter cards to comply with both ward structures, which are ready to be sent out on Monday.
The provincial government applied to appeal the and filed a separate motion to stay the legal ruling, which if granted would suspend Belobaba’s decision and the province will move ahead with changing ward boundaries as per the Better Local Government Act.
The motion will be heard Sept. 18 at the Ontario Court of Appeal while the government’s appeal application is pending.