Toronto city council calls for referendum, special meeting as it opposes reduction of wards

WATCH: Toronto city council voted in favour to have lawyers look at the constitutionality of the PC government’s bill to slash city wards nearly in half. Kamil Karamali reports

While voting to formally reject the Ontario government’s proposed legislation to dramatically reduce the number of councillors in Toronto, city council has asked for a referendum to be held on the issue.

During its session Monday afternoon, city council also passed a motion to meet on Aug. 20 to hear from the City of Toronto’s solicitor on the “validity and constitutionality of any provincial legislation, including its potential violation of the rights of the citizens of Toronto to fair and effective representation, the practicality of conducting the election, the Clerk’s capacity to implement the changes, and any errors or flaws in the legislation.”

On Monday, the provincial government tabled legislation that would see the number of city council seats reduced to 25 from 47 in the October municipal election. The plan was announced by Premier Doug Ford on Friday.

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“I think we should be taking a look at every possible legal avenue, really to hit the pause button,” Mayor John Tory told reporters following a transit announcement outside East York Town Centre Monday morning.

“I don’t think there’s any way we can stop it, necessarily in the context of having the province not able to move forward with changes to the City of Toronto Act on this or other areas, but I think we can sure call into question the process here.”

READ MORE: Toronto council hopeful Rocco Achampong wants court to stop Ford from axing wards

Premier Doug Ford‘s announcement prompted the mayor and city councillors to question the lack of consultation on the move.

“I believe that the suggestion I have made that we should have a referendum and put the legislation on pause while we seek the views of the people that will be accompanied, of course, by a full debate, is the right way to go about this,” Tory said.

READ MORE: Toronto council hopeful to ask Ontario court to stop Doug Ford from shrinking council

Toronto council hopeful to ask Ontario court to stop Doug Ford from shrinking council
Toronto council hopeful to ask Ontario court to stop Doug Ford from shrinking council

Among the other motions being discussed at Monday’s city council meeting include formally voting to oppose the legislation, to ask the city solicitor to examine the constitutionality of the bill, and to ask the province to allow a question on the council seat reduction plan to be included on the election ballot before the legislation is imposed.

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“I recognize the fact the province has broad powers when it comes to the matters affecting the city of Toronto, broad legislative powers,” Tory said.

READ MORE: ‘Get up if you have the balls’: John Tory to councillor who hinted he knew about ward cut legislation

“I think it’s important for us to see the bill, but I think in the meantime there can be research done on constitutional matters.”

The premier said the reduction in council seats would save the city $25.5 million over four years.

The proposed legislative changes, which have been included in the Better Local Government Act, would also eliminate elected chair positions in the regions of Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka.

Progress Toronto, a pro-democracy advocacy group, has since launched a petition asking the public to “stop Ford’s takeover of Toronto politics.”

— With files from Nick Westoll

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