TORONTO – Toronto’s mayor says the city must convey its “strong dissatisfaction” over the Ontario government’s move to slash the size of municipal council when local politicians and staff hold a meeting next week to discuss a potential court challenge to the province’s decision.
John Tory said Friday that Premier Doug Ford’s abrupt decision to cut the number of Toronto city councillors from 47 to 25 ahead of a fall municipal election must be opposed in some way.
Ford’s legislation on the matter has passed, but councillors are meeting Monday with the city’s legal team to discuss Toronto’s options.
“There was no opportunity, even at the legislature, for public input,” Tory said in an interview. “I think when it comes to a decision of this magnitude, affecting the City of Toronto and it’s people, that that was wrong.”
Council must convey “strong dissatisfaction in particular with the process that was followed here,” Tory said.
The mayor acknowledged that the constitution shows the province has clear jurisdiction over cities and towns, but said Monday’s meeting with the city’s legal team is necessary.
“There are a number of people who are unhappy,” he said. “We owe it to the people of Toronto to examine the legal options and to decide on something that is prudent in their interest.”
The Progressive Conservative government’s legislation — known as Bill 5 — aligns Toronto’s ward map with federal ridings, while extending the nomination period for council candidates until Sept. 14. The city’s election is set for Oct. 22.
Ford, himself a former council member, revealed his plan just weeks ago, saying it would 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 outside Toronto. Instead, the head of council in each region will be appointed.
Toronto’s legal team has filed a confidential report with advice to council on a potential court challenge but has recommended the document be kept secret because it discusses potential litigation. Its contents are expected to be debated behind closed doors on Monday.
When asked about the special session, Ford said council can do what 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.”
Earlier in the day, Ford wrote Tory a letter urging him and city council to use the special session to discuss a recent provincial commitment of $25 million to help Toronto police to fight guns and gangs. Ford has asked Toronto to match to funding.
Tory said the city has already committed to match the funding for 2018 and has said that if re-elected this fall, he will introduce a motion to see the commitment continued next year.
Tory added that despite the conflict between the city and the province, he can continue to work with the Ford administration.
“There are too many other files that are too important to people, like transit, like housing, like community safety,” he said. “But I will also not hesitate to speak up on behalf of the people of Toronto when that’s required.”