Friday 27 July 2018 at 11.35am. 

Ford’s decision to abolish elections already in play is Government by fiat.

If he is allowed to get away with this then where does it stop?

Ford claimed this morning there was no consultation on changes to municipal law which allowed for the direct election of Regional Chairs.

This is untrue.

The previous Liberal Government published a consultation paper “Municipal Legislation Review: Public Consultation Discussion Guide” in June 2015.

It specifically addressed the issue of Regional Chairs.

The former Newmarket-Aurora MPP Chris Ballard introduced his own Private Members’ Bill (Bill 42) calling for the direct election of the Chair of York Region when he was a backbencher. Along with others, I gave evidence to the Bill Committee in 2016.

When Ballard was promoted into Government his Bill died on the Order Paper but the Government took up the wider issue in its own legislation, making direct election of all Regional Chairs mandatory.

Ford silent on proposal during election

During the election campaign Ford made no specific reference to cutting the size of Toronto City Council nor of abolishing the direct election of Regional Chairs. There were glancing references to cutting the size of Government and that’s about it.

When he was in Opposition, Ford’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, supported Ballard’s Private Members’ Bill 42.

Today he did a complete U turn.

Before a Bill from the Ontario Legislature becomes law it must receive Royal Assent. This is given by the Lieutenant Governor whose constitutional role is, quite properly, very limited. In extremis, she acts as a constitutional longstop.

Her website tells us the Lieutenant Governor:

  • Ensures that Ontario always has a Premier who is able to command the confidence of the Legislative Assembly
  • Grants Royal Assent, the final step of the legislative process, to bills passed by the Legislative Assembly

The Lieutenant Governor remains strictly nonpartisan in carrying out her constitutional duties. In doing so, the Lieutenant Governor ensures that the democratic will of Ontarians and their elected representatives is upheld and that the constitutional conventions of responsible government are respected.

Of course, the Province can legislate to change the shape of the municipal map and to allocate and redistribute the powers exercised by municipalities. But constitutional convention does not allow for elections already under way to be abolished or otherwise tampered with by the Government of the day in the absence of an emergency and when no reference was made to this in the Party’s election platform.

No confidence motion

If I were Leader of the Official Opposition I would be tabling a motion of no confidence or “want of confidence” (in the terminology of the Ontario Legislature) which must be debated on the floor of the Chamber for up to a whole sitting day. This would shine a spotlight on the Ford proposals, their genesis and rationale.

It would also force MPPs – such as Newmarket-Aurora’s Christine Elliott – to take a view and nail her colours to the mast.

What Ford is proposing is an outrage which cannot be allowed to stand.

It is nothing other than constitutional vandalism.

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