The strongest case for not worrying too much about the Ontario government’s Section 33 grenade, lobbed Monday into Toronto’s already war-torn municipal election, is that it’s probably a moot point. For better or worse, the government has decided to slash Toronto city council in half. It can almost certainly get that through the courts in time for the next election; Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling quashing Bill 5, the legislation in question, will probably be overturned on appeal anyway. So we might as well get it over with.
Attorney General Caroline Mulroney gamely made that case to reporters Wednesday after question period, hours before the government reintroduced Bill 5 (now Bill 31) with the notwithstanding clause attached. She was poised, articulate and calm.
“We believe it was wrongly decided, and so we’re appealing that case,” she said. “And because time is of the essence — there is an election in the City of Toronto in a few short weeks — we have decided to use a legal tool that is available to the legislature.”
Time is only of the essence because Premier Doug Ford decided it should be, of course. But here was a sane, civilized explanation for a dodgy decision, made in the place where dozens of ministers before her have explained their governments’ dodgy decisions.
None of those ministers had to deal with the Doug Ford Show, though. In question period, asked by Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath if he thought there should be any checks on his power, Ford all but confirmed this is part of a personal vendetta against left-wing city councillors.
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“The leader of the NDP is here to protect her crony buddies (on city council): Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, Gord Perks,” Ford sneered. He said it twice, adding Paula Fletcher’s name to the list on second reference.
Here, probably, is a better reason not to get too stressed about the notwithstanding clause. As controversial and unnecessary as it is, and despite Wednesday’s melodrama — protesters were forcibly removed from the public galleries; a majority of NDP MPPs banged their desks at the bill’s introduction until they were booted — in two years we might look back on this day like a honeymoon in the Maldives.
In the future, a Liberal or NDP government can just go ahead and give city council more power — including the power to set its own complement. Some of Ford’s other ideas might prove far more difficult to overturn.
Let’s stay in Ford’s beloved Toronto: Should we trust a premier so obsessed with his former job as to bust up an election with just weeks to go before voting day to, say, upload and manage Toronto’s $2 billion-per-annum transit system in a coherent and defensible fashion that would be, he promises, “nothing but a benefit”?
Folks, …read more