By: Laura Steiner
The Notwithstanding clause is a mechanism allowing federal and provincial legislatures to pass laws that potentially violate sections 2, and 7-15 on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s the constitutional way of saying “my way or the high way” the courts. The question of whether Premier Doug Ford could use it, isn’t an issue. It’s a mechanism that has been used before, in other provinces with varying degrees of success.
It’s a question of if he should. The argument in favour of it is personified by Toronto City Council itself. 47 councillors have meant days long meetings with very little to show for it. A transit plan that’s being perpetually changed, barely any of which is built before someone changes their mind. A public housing structure that’s years behind in repairs. Bylaws that still haven’t been harmonized from the days of amalgamation. A lot of the big stuff gets lost as everyone has their say, and advances their causes. Envisioning a city with a transit plan that actually gets built is almost worth it alone.
In the context of Toronto’s place within the province, the answer is no. Toronto’s population 2.8 million people makes up barely 1/3 of Ontario’s population. This government shows early signs of a habit of passing controversial legislation. Is it wise to use the proverbial hammer so soon? Why not wait until a bill that affects more than one community? Like say a carbon tax imposed by a certain federal government.
Candidates for municipal office are allowed to begin accepting donations after the submit nomination papers to the municipality. Some consider this the beginning of the campaign. The idea of a nomination period was introduced by the provincial Liberals for the 2018 municipal election campaigns; in this case it was between May 1, 2018 and July 27, 2018. It’s an issue of timing, and what activities besides collecting donations constitute a campaign period.
Doug Ford needs to decide what kind of Premier he wants to be. The Premier for all 13 million people in Ontario? Or is he the Premier of Toronto, out to use whatever mechanism he has at his disposal to settle old scores? The answer ultimately will dictate his re-election, Toronto Council’s fate notwithstanding.