'I’ve had numerous calls': Ford suggests Ottawans want smaller city council

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

Council Chambers at city hall in Toronto Ont. on Monday

"Now that the court decision has been issued, I think it is extremely important that we hear from the premier and the government of Ontario and from other Ontario legislative leaders (on) why a reduction in the size of the city council in the middle of an election campaign is more important than considering such change... at a different time and in a much different manner?"

Doug Ford's efforts to slash the size of Toronto's council ahead of an election was ruled unconstitutional on Monday, dealing a major blow to the Ontario premier and putting the fate of the city's fall vote in limbo.

Ford said his Progressive Conservative government would also appeal the judgment, which concluded the province's council-cutting legislation was hurriedly enacted and interfered with the right to freedom of expression for both candidates and voters.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has suggested that Ottawa city council might soon come under the same kind of scrutiny as Toronto's.

Ford, a failed Toronto mayoral candidate and single-term city councillor, argued the move will improve decision-making and save $25 million. Ford also ran for mayor in 2014 but lost to John Tory.

Although its use is often said to amount to "overruling the Charter", that's not technically correct: it's a part of the Charter, included as a compromise measure to ensure provincial support for the document's adoption in 1982.

At his press conference, Ford complained to reporters that a "democratically elected government" is being "shut down by the courts".

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"The Ford government's first action when it stepped into office was to gut a program created to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, without offering any immediate alternative", Charles Hatt, Ecojustice's lawyer, said in a statement. It allows the government to override certain portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"We took a stand for democracy and justice". Joe Mihevic, who is running for re-election, wrote on Twitter.

"I'm also certain that the province knows that they themselves have a very steep, uphill battle to overturn this ruling", she said.

And if the courts keep striking down his bad laws as unconstitutional, Ford says he's ready to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the constitution "again in the future" too.

"Bill 5 is ill-conceived, anti democratic and a clear abuse of power".

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. Paula Fletcher said if the Ford government invokes the notwithstanding clause, they would be a "laughing stock" in Canada.

The Better Local Government Act dictated that the selection process for the chair positions switch from election to appointment but Belobaba said "a more complete legal and evidentiary basis would be needed" for the court to challenge those provisions of the bill. "As a matter of fact, I've been getting calls from all over the province".

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Ford had previously said that Ottawa was a special case.

In a tweet Monday night, Tory said he had met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Toronto for a women's summit, to discuss his concerns about the province's use of the notwithstanding clause.

Coun. Mike Layton said he hopes the ruling serves as a "lesson" to Doug Ford and his government. "Thankfully, the courts have put a check on the premier's undemocratic actions for the second time now".

Belobaba ordered an election resume with 47 wards, returning the campaign to a state before the Tories passed Bill 5 at Queen's Park.

The spokesperson said advance voting will begin on October 10 and nominations for candidates under the 47-ward model were closed on July 27 and certified. "Bill 5 is dead".

"It breached the municipal voter's right to cast a ballot in effective representation", said Belobaba.

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