Rocco Achampong, a Toronto lawyer who is running for councillor in Ward 13, briefly appeared in a Toronto court Tuesday morning in response to legislation tabled by the Ontario government on July 30. If passed, the law would cut the number of city council wards to 25 from 47 in the October municipal election. The court decided to set aside Aug. 31 to hear arguments on the application.
The 2018 election is the first since the City of Toronto changed its ward boundary structure, which happened earlier this council term. The last review was done in 2000. Three new wards were created and 47 councillor positions were created, up from 44.
“When you change the boundaries, when you change the geography, you change the consideration. There is a material change of circumstances,” Achampong told Global News Monday evening.
“Obviously I can’t take that lying down as a citizen in a free and democratic society. I am availing myself of the processes and the procedures available to me to seek recourse and relief.”
Achampong said he is asking the courts to suspend the Better Local Government Act from coming into force during the 2018 election. He said he hopes the City of Toronto will join with him during the process.
“I don’t take issue with the content of the act. We don’t take issue with what the premier is trying to do. What we’re saying is that the timing is wrong,” he said, adding any proposed changes should take effect during the next election.
While voting on July 30 to formally reject the Ontario government’s proposed legislation to dramatically reduce the number of councillors in Toronto, city council asked for a referendum on the issue.
It also passed a motion to meet again on Monday 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.”
Toronto city council has until Aug. 21 to decide if the City of Toronto will join with Achampong in court.
Meanwhile, Achampong said there is a “reasonable likelihood” the injunction could be granted for the 2018 election, but acknowledged the province of Ontario controls the structure of municipalities.
“I think the courts will somewhat be silent on the fact that the premier has the authority to affect the change he wants to affect, but there is the rule of law and that tradition of the rule of law has to be followed,” he said, adding he launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help fund a legal challenge.