Judge strikes down bill to reduce Toronto council size

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Ford vowed - for the first time in Ontario's history - to employ the "notwithstanding clause" of Canada's Constitution after Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba struck down Bill 5, legislation created to reduce city council from 47 members to 25 in the October 22 municipal election.

The premier said the province would also appeal the court decision, which said the legislation - called the Better Local Government Act - was hurriedly enacted in the middle of a municipal election and interfered with the right to freedom of expression for both candidates and voters.

City lawyers contended that reducing the number of councillors in the middle of an election was "discriminatory and arbitrary", and violated the charter - arguments Belobaba accepted.

Bill 5 also cancelled planned elections for the head of council position in the regional municipalities of Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara, turning them into appointed roles.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called the move a "gross overreach" of the province's powers and said in a tweet Monday night he had met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Toronto for a women's summit, to discuss his concerns.

Many Canadians were unhappy to learn on social media over the weekend that Tom Parkin, Postmedia's only genuinely progressive columnist, had filed his last words to English Canada's largest publisher of newspapers.

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But the judge said similar legislation could still be passed by the Province, so long as it's constitutional. Indeed, Premier Ford said he is prepared to use the notwithstanding clause again - leaving the clear impression that it will be his preferred response to any judicial setbacks.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he will invoke the Constitution's notwithstanding clause to override today's court decision on Toronto City Council.

However, legal counsel for protesters in B.C. might get some value from trying to have the injunction set aside, seeing as the permits have now been ruled not to be legal.

"Right now, we said we're going to focus on this".

She added that she is certain the judge would have crafted his ruling to withstand an appeal.

Speaking at the Mayor's Breakfast Tuesday morning, MacLeod told reporters there's no "for now" when it comes to a possible cut to Ottawa's city council chambers. "Governments must follow good democratic processes". Kristyn Wong-Tam said many council candidates held off registering in the 25-ward system pending the outcome of the court case. Joe Mihevic, who is running for re-election, wrote on Twitter.

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Horwath accused Ford of exacting revenge on those who opposed him when he was councillor.

"The options if you look at the plain wording appear to be extremely limited", he said. "Waiting an additional four years to reduce the size of city council is a missed opportunity to save taxpayers money". For instance, the 2010 Citizens United decision gutted laws meant to control campaign financing by declaring corporate election spending a form of constitutionally protected free speech.

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

This has always been evident from what details we know of Premier Ford's personal life before and after he entered politics, not to mention his conduct and that of his late little brother Rob when the latter was the out-of-control mayor of Toronto.

Doug Ford plans to invoke notwithstanding clause.

Coun. Mike Layton said he hopes the ruling serves as a "lesson" to Doug Ford and his government.

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Alas for advocates of this approach, Section 33 only applies to fundamental freedoms, legal rights and equality rights, so it can not be used to overturn the Federal Court's TMX ruling, which hinged on the lack of proper consultation with First Nations along the route and the need to study its potential impact on marine wildlife.

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