In Toronto, the rest of Ontario and across Canada, most people take issue with the manner in which Ontario Premier Doug Ford has gone about using the notwithstanding clause to shrink the size of Toronto city council, rather than his desire to shrink council per se.
That’s according to a new Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News, in which 65 per cent of Torontonians, 59 per cent of Ontarians and 59 per cent of Canadians said they’re more upset with the process adopted by Ford, rather than his stated goal of reducing the size of council.
The survey of 1,560 adults, 506 of whom live in Toronto, found opposition for Ford’s use of the controversial clause to be fairly uniform across geographical lines, with 54 per cent of respondents in Toronto, 58 per cent in Ontario and 57 per cent in the rest of Canada disapproving.
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Ford dropped a political bombshell last week by announcing that he was turning to a seldom-used measure — section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, better known as the notwithstanding clause — to force through his council-cutting plan despite Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba ruling it unconstitutional.
It’s a move that runs counter to the policy cherished by many Canadians, according to Mike Colledge, president of the Canadian public affairs division at Ipsos.
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“Canadians really do value — and I hate to be corny about this — peace, order and good government… but the coverage and the process certainly don’t point to either peace or order,” Colledge said. “So I think that’s the part that people are more antsy about than really the notion of using the notwithstanding clause.”
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The issue has attracted plenty of attention in Toronto and beyond — nearly 80 per cent of Torontonians said they were familiar with the controversy surrounding Ford and the notwithstanding clause, as well as 70 per cent of Ontarians and nearly half (47 per cent) of Canadians outside the country’s largest province.
Colledge says that’s because the matter at hand has to do with far more than just some obscure legislative mechanism.
READ MORE: Doug Ford plans to invoke notwithstanding clause. So what happens next?
“It’s not about an obscure political procedure. It’s about the protests outside the courthouse, it’s about the opposition party being ejected from the legislature, it’s about the chaos and commotion around the issue as much as it’s about the notwithstanding clause,” Colledge said.
“If you look through Twitter and the pundits, for them it’s about the notwithstanding clause and the legal principles; for most Canadians, it’s not about that. It’s what this has caused — it has caused protests on the street and in the legislature,” he continued.
WATCH: Chaos at Ontario Legislature as Ford moves to cut Toronto city council
“Canadians do value process, they do value order and they do value collaboration and co-operation. It’s in our nature. And this doesn’t ring for that.”
Much of Canadians’ chagrin on the notwithstanding clause likely stems from the timing of its use, with Colledge stating that had Ford unveiled his plans after the Toronto municipal election was completed — rather than in the middle of the election campaign — Canadians might have been more supportive.
“If this was happening for the next round of elections, I think you’d see some of those support numbers go up a little bit,” Colledge said.
READ MORE: 25 Toronto MPs slam Ford for using notwithstanding clause, urge MPPs to defeat bill
So disgruntled are Canadians by Ford’s move that many of them want the highest office in the land to step in and thwart his plans.
“If there’s one thing Trudeau has been about, he’s been about consultation, co-operation, co-ordination, taking some time to get things right,” said Colledge.
Indeed the Constitution gives Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet the power to overrule any act of a provincial legislature — 63 per cent of Torontonians, 58 per cent of Ontarians and 59 per cent of Canadians outside Ontario told Ipsos they’d like to see Trudeau wield that power.
However, Trudeau said last week that while he was “disappointed” with the deployment of the notwithstanding clause, he had no plans to get involved beyond stating his disappointment.
WATCH: Trudeau backs Toronto City Council in legal fight with Doug Ford
However, the poll suggests that people who voted for Ford are probably tolerant of the premier’s tactics.
In Ontario, support for Ford’s use of the notwithstanding clause stood at 42 per cent, a figure which Colledge points out is higher than the 40.5 per cent of votes that Ford’s Progressive Conservatives garnered in June’s provincial election.
“At its core, with that 42 per cent support… I expect most of the Conservative voters are supportive of the direction where it’s going.”
READ MORE: Andrew Scheer, federal Tories back Doug Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause
While Ford didn’t mention any plans to slash the size of council during his provincial campaign, Colledge said the move is squarely in line with Ford’s political philosophy.
“If he wasn’t elected on specifically this, this does fit… If you asked people, ‘What do you think he’s going to do?’ they’d say, ‘I think he’s going to try to reduce the size of government, save money, reduce cost.'”
And why is Ford doing it in the first place? According to the poll’s respondents, there are two clear motivating factors.
A genuine desire to save money and streamline council is one of them, according to 57 per cent of Torontonians, 58 per cent of Ontarians and 60 per cent of Canadians.
But there’s also the payback theory, with 58 per cent of respondents in Toronto, 53 per cent in Ontario and 55 per cent across Canada believing that the premier is looking to get back at councillors for their treatment of him and his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, when they were councillors.
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While it may seem strange at first for both theories to garner majority support, Colledge says they’re not mutually exclusive.
“I think everybody recognizes that you can have two motivations,” Colledge said. “There are some people saying, ‘I think he’s seeking some sort of payback for the past and previous city councillors’ and those kinds of things, and others saying, ‘I generally believe Doug Ford when he says he wants to save money and make council and government more efficient.’
READ MORE: Public gallery shouts down Doug Ford, interrupts question period at Ontario legislature
Ultimately, it’s an issue that has polarized people, especially those most affected by it — Torontonians.
“The closer you get to the epicentre of this, the more awareness there is, and the more awareness there is, the more polarized it is,” said Colledge. “The farther away you are from living and breathing it, the more moderate your views.
“In the 416, it’s a fairly polarized debate right now.”
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between September 13 and 18, 2018, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,560 adults aged 18+ was interviewed online, including a sample of 506 residents of the City of Toronto. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. For Ontario provincial results, and national results, the Toronto sample was weighted down to reflect its population size vis a vis the population of Ontario and Canada. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled, and +/- 5.0 percentage points had all Torontonians been polled.