Toronto’s mayor says he will support a potential legal challenge against the Ontario government’s decision to slash the size of city council at an emergency meeting on the issue today.
Local politicians and staff are meeting to discuss whether to turn to the courts to oppose the new provincial legislation, which passed last week and will cut the number of Toronto city councillors from 47 to 25.
The Progressive Conservative government’s legislation — known as Bill 5 — comes ahead of a municipal election and aligns Toronto’s ward map with federal ridings.
The bill also extends the nomination period for council candidates until Sept. 14. Toronto’s election is set for Oct. 22.
The city’s legal team has filed a confidential report with advice on a potential court challenge, and the document is expected to be debated behind closed doors today.
Mayor John Tory says the timing of the legislation has put the city in an unprecedented situation.
“The process by which this monumental change was made was wrong and unacceptable,” the mayor said in a statement on Monday.
“While we, as a municipality, must always acknowledge that we exist and operate within the context of a Canadian constitution, it is our duty to represent the people of Toronto and the best interests of this city at all times — and to make our position clear when we do not believe the actions of other levels of government are in our city’s best interest.”
Premier Doug Ford, a former Toronto councillor and failed mayoral candidate, stunned local politicians and residents last month when he announced the plan, which was not part of his election platform.
The premier argues the move will help council make decisions and deliver services “more efficiently and effectively.”
The legislation also cancels planned elections for the head of council position in the regional municipalities of Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara. Instead, the head of council in each region will be appointed.
Ford has said Toronto’s council can debate the issue if it wishes.
“They can talk about Bill 5 all they want,” he said Friday. “At the end of the day, we made a decision to make government run more efficiently here in the city of Toronto.”
The Canadian Press