Statement on the Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Bill 5
October 1, 2021
Today is a sad day for local democracy in our city.
It was very disappointing to learn that by a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court of Canada decided to uphold the Ontario law (Bill 5) that cut Toronto City Council in half in the midst of the 2018 municipal election.
Less than two months after taking office, the newly elected Ford government slashed Toronto Council from 47 seats to 25 seats, with no consultation or substantial reasoning. This was a shocking and unprecedented action by a provincial government.
The City's brief to the Supreme Court stated the province's legislation was introduced without any notice to the City, candidates or electors and, "It was directed solely at Toronto and no other municipality. The result was widespread disruption of the election and confusion among candidates and voters alike." It was clear the province was trampling on Toronto's right to effective representation.
I agree with Justice Rosalie Abella who stated, "By radically redrawing electoral boundaries during an active election that was almost two-thirds complete, the legislation interfered with the rights of all participants in the electoral process to engage in meaningful reciprocal political discourse." She also stated that the province did not offer any explanation for this late interference. "There was no hint of urgency, nor any overwhelming immediate policy need."
This is an unfortunate end to this fight and it means Toronto residents will continue to be disproportionately represented as the Council wards are the same size as the federal and provincial ridings. There are no other cities anywhere in Canada where the municipal Council seats are the same size as the provincial and federal ridings.
Ford's decision to cut Council has not saved costs nor made City Council more functional. However, it has made sure that councillors have less time for all of their residents and has effectively hurt local democracy in our city.