Toronto-Canada’s top court is expected to decide on Friday whether Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council during the last municipal election was constitutional.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruling is set to be delivered about a year before Ontario’s next municipal vote.
The 2018 municipal campaign was well underway when the Ontario legislature passed a law that reduced the number of council seats in Toronto from 47 to 25, aligning them with federal riding.
At the time, Ford—a former Toronto city councilor and unsuccessful mayoral candidate—argued that the change would streamline council operations and save $25 million.
However, critics termed it as undemocratic and arbitrary.
Toronto successfully challenged the law in Superior Court, with the judge ruling it unconstitutional.
Justice Edward Beloba found that the law violated the rights of candidates by affecting their ability to campaign and by preventing voters from casting a ballot on their vote, which could result in effective representation.
Ford threatened to use the Constitution Despite Clause to move through the change. This clause gives provincial legislatures and parliament the ability to bring in laws that override provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but only for five years.
In the end, the Progressive Conservative Premier did not have to invoke this clause as the province stayed the decision pending an appeal. The election of Toronto proceeded with the reduced size of the council.
In its arguments to the Court of Appeal, the province said the law was a “proportionate measure” to address the “failure” in the city council, which it said was caused by having too many councillors.
Meanwhile, the city said the results of the 2018 vote should be allowed to stand until the next election, which is due next October. It sought, among other things, the court to strike down the law as unconstitutional, arguing that it violates the unwritten constitutional principles of democracy.
Ontario’s top court was divided in the case, with three judges deciding to overturn Belobaba’s decision and two upholding it.
The majority found that the law did not infringe on the ability of candidates or voters to express themselves freely. Dissenting judges found that it interfered with the candidates’ rights to freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the city’s challenge of the Court of Appeals decision. The hearing was held in March
In its written submission, the city argued that the change caused significant disruption and confusion for candidates and voters.
The new ward’s boundaries made it so that candidates campaigned in areas that were no longer part of their wards, and in areas that no longer belonged to their wards, the city wrote. Meanwhile, voters were no longer sure in which ward they lived and who the candidates were, it argued.
It again argued that the law violated the “unwritten constitutional principle of democracy”.
The province’s submission stated that voters and candidates had all the necessary information about who was running in each ward prior to the vote.
It also said that unwritten constitutional principles cannot be used to overturn the law—but if they could, the province argued that there was no ground to violate them in this case.
by Paola Lorigio
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times