More efficiency, $25 million saved and more getting done at Toronto City Hall.
That’s the pitch from Premier Doug Ford’s government with the introduction of The Better Local Government Act. The bill, in addition to a number of other changes, moves to overhaul Toronto City Council, slashing the number of councillors from 44 to 25.
The bill was brought to the floor of the legislature Monday, where it received first reading, during which the purpose of the bill was explained.
The premier claimed the proposed law will streamline city hall.
“There isn’t too many people that I know that wouldn’t want to trade in a bunch of politicians for $25 million,” Ford said. First reading carried without a formal vote.
Second reading could prove to be a lengthier process — during this stage it is debated and amendments are put forward.
On Tuesday, the NDP tabled an amendment that could delay passage of the bill.
The amendment read, in part, “This bill be NOT now read a second time but be referred back to the government with instructions to first provide a report to the house outlining the method and scope of public consultation measures that informed the drafting of the bill.”
When questioned by Global News on what else her party can do to stop the bill, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said, “We don’t have very many arrows in our quiver, very many tools to use, but we will use every tool we have to try to push this back.”
The opposition leader blamed past administrations for giving majority governments too much power.
“We have very few tools to use, because as oppositions became much more effective at using those tools, they became expunged from the standing orders, which is the rules by which we engage here,” she said.
If the bill passes second reading, it will head to the third and final reading where it will be voted on.
Like the NDP, city council has few tools to block legislation. Council voted Monday to ask the Ford government to conduct a referendum on the number of city wards before moving ahead. Whether a legal challenge will be mounted by the city is unknown right now. Council requested city lawyers explore options and report back by Aug. 20.
The city clerk’s office expressed concern they may not be able to run the municipal election in October due to boundary, ward and candidate changes.
Government sources told Global News the Ford administration plans to have Elections Ontario step in if local officials say they have insufficient resources to run the fall election.
Toronto lawyer and Ward 13 candidate Rocco Achampong said he is going to step up and fight Ford in court if the city won’t.
On Tuesday, he filed an application with Ontario’s Superior Court to block the legislation for the 2018 election cycle.
“I would love for the city to stand up for the citizens of Toronto. I don’t see why it is left to me as an independent candidate for Ward 13 Eglinton–Lawrence to be fighting for everyone’s democratic right in this city,” Achampong said. “I understand some people might think I’m in opposition to that act, but the extent of my opposition is to the fact that it should not apply to the 2018 election.”
In his application, Achampong said, “The controlling law, rules and regulation that have been operative since the start of the election cycle have now been thrust into a state of ambiguity and uncertainty, as the legislature is currently looking to amend and repeal provisions that govern elections to municipal office in the province of Ontario.”