Judge Strikes Down Cuts to City Council – A Win for Local Democracy!

Justice Belobaba struck down Ford’s legislation (Bill 5) that would have cut Toronto from 47 wards to 25 wards. This is a huge win for local democracy! Thank you to everyone who came to a meeting or rally, signed a petition, sent an email or made a phone call.

Here is the link to the judge’s reasons for this decision:
http://www.ontariocourts.ca/decisions/scj/2018ONSC5151.pdf

Here are some highlights:

“For the reasons set out below, I find that the Impugned Provisions of Bill 5 substantially interfered with both the candidate’s and the voter’s right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I further find, on the evidence before me, that these breaches cannot be saved or justified under section 1. The Impugned Provisions are unconstitutional and are set aside under s. 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The October 22 election shall proceed as scheduled but on the basis of 47 wards, not 25. If the Province wishes to enact another Bill 5-type law at some future date to affect future City elections, it may certainly attempt to do so. As things now stand – and until a constitutionally valid provincial law says otherwise – the City has 47 wards.”

“As I explain in more detail below, the Impugned Provisions breach s. 2(b) of the Charter in two ways: (i) because the Bill was enacted in the middle of an ongoing election campaign, it breached the municipal candidate’s freedom of expression and (ii) because Bill 5 almost doubled the population size of City wards from an average of 61,000 to an average of 111,000, it breached the municipal voter’s right to cast a vote that can result in effective representation.Either breach by itself is sufficient to support a court order declaring that the Impugned Provisions are of no force or effect.”

“The enactment and imposition of Bill 5, radically redrawing the electoral districts in the middle of the electoral process undermined the very notion of a ‘fair and equitable’ election.”

“In any event, the constitutional problem here is two-fold: (i) there is no evidence (other than anecdotal evidence) that a 47-seat City Council is in fact “dysfunctional” or that more effective representation can be achieved by moving from a 47-ward to a 25-ward structure; and (ii) even if there was such evidence, there is no evidence of any urgency that required Bill 5 to take effect in the middle of the City’s election.”