Bill to cut Toronto city council almost in half passes in legislature
Kayla Goodfield, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, August 14, 2018 3:51PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2018 5:49PM EDT
A bill to cut the size of Toronto city council almost in half passed in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday afternoon.
The passing of Bill 5, “The Better Local Government Act,” comes after Premier Doug Ford announced on July 27 that his government would reduce the number of municipal wards from 47 to 25 in time for October’s election.
“Streamlining Toronto council will help the city make decisions more quickly and effectively,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said in a news release issued on Tuesday. “It saves more than $25 million – money it can use to build transit, housing and infrastructure and make life better for the people of Toronto.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory has expressed his opposition towards this bill since Ford announced it last month.
Last week, Tory penned a letter to Ford asking him to “hit the pause button” on these plans, noting the premier’s decision was “without meaningful consultation of any kind.”
After the passing of the bill, Tory said he still believes changing the rules in the middle of an election is “absolutely wrong.”
“At the last city council meeting, the city solicitor was directed to report back on the city’s legal options at a special session of council to be held on August 20, 2018,” he said. “At that time, city council will vote to direct any official legal action, which could include the request for injunction relief.”
“I look forward to Monday’s meeting where we will receive advice from our city solicitor on what steps we can take to ensure a proper process is followed.”
The bill also cancels regional chair elections in Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka. The positions will revert to an appointment process that was in effect prior to 2016. This decision halted the campaigns of former PC party leader Patrick Brown in Peel Region and former Liberal cabinet minister Steven Del Duca in York Region.
Toronto-area school board trustees will also align with new ward boundaries, while maintaining the existing number of trustees under the bill.
“We’re pressing the pause button on how chairs are selected in four regional governments,” Clark said. “It’s an opportunity to discuss regional representation and engage municipalities on the future of regional government.”
Speaking to CP24 after the bill had passed, Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said the PCs are a “majority government drunk on their power.”
“He (Premier Ford) decided he was going to take revenge on his opponents, whether it be Patrick Brown as regional chair of Peel or whether it be the people of Toronto who didn’t support him for mayor the last time around and he’s pulled that power into his office here at Queen’s Park,” she said.
“It is a stunning trampling of democratic rights of the people of Toronto, as well as these other regions who are now not going to be able to elect regional chair, instead those are going to be more backroom deals.”
Horwath said the changes make for a “sad day” in Ontario.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner voiced his opposition to the bill while speaking in the legislature ahead of the vote.
“I rise today to ask members of this house to join me in voting against Bill 5,” he said. “I think members opposite will agree that serving people is the most important job we have as elected – and I emphasis elected – representatives. Matter of fact it’s what elected representation is all about. It is why we actually have budget for constituency offices so that we can help the people that we serve.”
The interim leader of Ontario’s Liberals, John Fraser, told CP24 the bill was “causing chaos” in the upcoming fall elections.
“We voted against this bill, we felt that this bill was an intervention into municipal elections, which has never happened anywhere before in Canada. It was the wrong thing to do,” Fraser said.
The municipal elections are scheduled to take place on October 22. The nomination deadline for Toronto council candidates and school board trustees has been extended to Sept. 14.