'Morally despicable' to 'right call': Reactions pour in after Ford's Toronto battle takes another turn

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, seen here in Toronto on Aug. 9, 2018, with Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney in the background, had threatened to use the notwithstanding clause to push Bill 5 into law. Photo from The Canadian Press.

Ontario’s highest court is allowing the Progressive Conservative government on their move to slash the size of Toronto city council.

The back and forth between those for and against the PC government’s plan to reshape Toronto city hall has made for intense debate. In the previous ruling, the judge said the Tories “crossed the line” with the move because it infringed on freedom of expression rights for both the candidates and the voters in the Toronto election since it came after the election campaign had started.

The Ontario Court of Appeal stayed a lower court ruling on Sept. 10 that quashed the provincial government’s plans for Toronto. The latest development means Toronto will have candidates vying for 25 wards in the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 22, which means there will be nearly half as many councillors as the 47 the city has now.

On Wednesday, the Ontario Court of Appeal said “unfairness alone does not establish a Charter breach.”  This means the PCs will not have to use the notwithstanding clause — controversially suggested by Ford  to implement the legislation at this time.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the latest turn in this controversial situation was “not the decision we wanted,” but he’s prepared to move forward.

“The government decided to change the rules of an election that was already underway without a mandate to do so,” Tory said. “I object to this, it was wrong, it was handled in the wrong way.”

The mayor added that he hopes the province has learned from this because it “led to a lot of chaos” in the midst of an election.

“It’s all so completely unnecessary,” Tory said. “The bottom line is we are where we are now.”

Ford was in Washington, D.C., when the announcement was made, and didn’t immediately comment on the latest news, but his views have been well known. He tweeted the following on Monday:

“A more streamlined Toronto City Hall can take action and get to work on issues that matter to the people of Toronto. Building housing. Building transit. Building Infrastructure.”

Eyebrows were raised across the country last week when the Ontario premier announced he would be willing to go so far as to use the notwithstanding clause to override the initial court decision against the legislation.

Politicians and citizens across the country suggested use of the clause is a violation of basic Canadian human rights. Joe Cressy, a Toronto city councillor, suggested Ford’s political move was the “makings of a dictator.” In a poll of 26,000 Yahoo Canada readers, most agreed with Ford’s decision to invoke the clause for the first time in Ontario, despite it rarely being used in Canada’s history.

As was the case during the previous court ruling earlier this month, reactions came in hot and heavy on social media in response to the ruling.

“Thank you Doug for staying the course and not giving into the radical alt left! This is a huge win for Toronto and Ontario,” Yahoo Canada reader Wayne wrote in response.

“I don’t agree with cutting the [number of] councillors so close to the election but if the premier has the power to cut it, he should be allowed to,” Saqib said in the Yahoo Canada comment section. 

“What choice did the courts have when they were practically being blackmailed,” Yahoo Canada user Laura pondered.

“Smoke and mirrors that Conservatives blindly applaud. Worry about the province as a whole instead of one city,” Faver replied.

“Good news for Ontario, let’s aim for efficiency with smaller council,” Linda chimed in.

Not surprisingly, Twitter lit up:

What do you think of the latest ruling on this matter? Let us know in the comment section below.