In politics, if you want to make a change you have to be ruthless. That doesn't mean you have to make a practice of cruelty or listen for the screams
as a way of checking the effectiveness of your initiatives, but to make changes from established practice it is better not to dither, not to muddle
Amputation is better done with a scalpel than by simply twisting the diseased member back and forth until it finally drops off.
Doug Ford's determination to reduce the size of Toronto's City Council has led to a court challenge which ruled his initiative to be in violation of
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter has included in it what is known as the "notwithstanding clause" which is an escape hatch
allowing the federal government and the provincial governments to overrule a Charter based challenge to legislation and to proceed with whatever
legislative initiative they insist upon pursuing.
It is a way for elected governments at the provincial and federal level to pull rank on the courts, and do what they want to do. The Ford government
has chosen to invoke the "notwithstanding clause" and reintroduce the legislation that was successfully challenged in the courts. Doing so is
ruthless, but it is a legal option for them.
That's the law in Canada. Elected legislative bodies at the provincial and federal level are supreme. The courts in Canada are not a "check and
balance" in the same way that they are in the United States. They are not a "coequal" branch of the government.
The initiative by the Ford government in Ontario to reduce the size of Tornto City Council has run into a lot of flack. The objections can be divided
along two main lines.
There is opposition to the notion of reducing the size of City Council and there is opposition to the process by which the intiative is being carried
Mayor Tory objects to both the idea of reducing city council and to the process. I don't want to discuss the idea in itself. I really don't know
whether a smaller council is a good idea or not. Doug Ford believes that a smaller council will be more efficient and will save taxpayer money. He has
been a city councillor and thinks that council is laughably inefficient. He likened it to a situation comedy on television.
Mayor Tory and others believe that the council needs to be the size it is to give adequate representation to Toronto's citizens in the various wards,
across a large and populous city that presents different problems and challenges in each neighborhood.
Which view of council should prevail is a matter of judgment. That's what politics are about.
Process is where Doug Ford is running into his most energetic and vehement opposition.
A wide variety of people in the city and province as a whole are upset at the way this initiative, reducing the size of city council in Toronto, has
been handled. They feel, quite rightly, that it has been sprung on them. They object that it is occurring in the middle of an election campaign for
city council. They don't like the idea that it was not mentioned during the provincial election that brought the Conservative Party, led by Doug Ford,
into power, which means that the merits of the initiative have never been given a public airing in a meaningful way.
This quite significant initiative has never been voted on, except in the Conservative dominated legislature.
The optics of Premier Ford's démarche on the size of council are terrible, granted, but it is hard to say what would have been a better time, or, in
strategic terms, way to do it.
If it had been done during the provincial election, and been one of the planks in the Conservative Party platform, it would have presented difficult
complications to Ford. How to explain that the initiative only applied to Toronto, and not to all municipalities in Ontario? I'm not saying that
couldn't be explained, but it would have added drag and not lift to the Ford electoral flight.
If the initiative had been presented after the elections for City Council in Toronto, it would have brought howls of outrage at what would look like a
massive muddle precipitated by Ford, essentially backtracking on a recently completed electoral process.
There simply was no good time to do this thing, in political terms, but this is where ruthlessness comes into it. The notwithstanding clause had to be
invoked in order for the government to retain its legitimate right to control the legislative agenda in the province, and to avoid the appearance of
being a blundering bunch who didn't know how to do anything.
Not making this change an issue in the provincial election looks sneaky, but there is no doubt that it would have been a major distraction over
something that I don't really think is a major issue for Ontarians as a whole, reducing the size of Toronto's city council. I think Doug Ford sees
this more as "government business", not the revision of Mosaic Law.
edit on 13-9-2018 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)