What comes after Toronto city hall fight? Holding ‘over 460’ Ontario towns accountable: Ford
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, the Ontario premier rejected criticism that he is using the “nuclear option” to bypass the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by using the notwithstanding clause to slash the size of Toronto city council. Ford said he plans to hold local governments’ feet to the fire to make sure they get projects like transit and infrastructure construction done.
“We’re going to actually hold people accountable,” he said, without specifying how exactly he plans to do so.
“We’re going to hold governments accountable in over 460 towns in this province to make sure they maximize their budgets in the best way they can to respect the taxpayers.”
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In July, Ford introduced a bill to cut the size of Toronto city council to 25 wards from 47.
That decision came as the municipal election campaign was already underway, causing critics to cry foul and accuse him of changing the rules mid-game.
Legal challenges quickly emerged and in a decision last week, a judge ruled against Ford’s plan to cut the council size in the middle of an election, saying it violated candidates’ rights to freedom of expression.
In response, Ford said the judge was thwarting the will of the people and announced he would use the notwithstanding clause to override the ruling.
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Late last week, he reintroduced the bill to cut council size at Queen’s Park, prompting protests that resulted in citizens being barred from the public viewing galleries and NDP MPs being removed from their seats in the chamber.
Ford dismissed criticism of the bill, saying his critics were just concerned with saving their friends’ jobs.
“My opposition, they’re protecting downtown NDP jobs, politicians’ jobs. That’s all they’re worried about,” he said. “Protecting their friends’ jobs and specifically, NDP downtown councilors.”
Toronto city council is not made up of official political parties the way Queen’s Park or the House of Commons are.
Candidates run as individuals and the divides between them typically break down along urban and suburban lines.
Ford, who was formerly a councillor from Etobicoke when he sat on Toronto city council, frequently butted heads with the councillors representing urban wards on issues like public transit and bike lanes.
Since being elected, he has been accused of using his premiership as a “settling of accounts” against those who opposed him while he was a councillor.
But Ford said that’s not the case.
“I’ve sat down at city council and we’ve debated shark fin soup for 12 hours. You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said.
“We need a partner we can work with, not a partner that is dysfunctional. City hall is the most dysfunctional arena in the entire country.”
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