I was going to write about something entirely different today, but then the Premier of Ontario lost a case in a court of law and decided he had no use for courts and was above the law.
I'm sorry, this one is political. I know how much people hate my political posts. Please forgive me, this one is extremely important.
Like almost 80% of eligible voters, I did not vote for this man to run my province. Maybe you did. It doesn't matter.
Like EVERY eligible voter, I didn't hear anything in Ford's "platform", such as it was, about cutting the size of Toronto's government roughly in half, much less in the middle of a municipal election. I didn't hear anything, and neither did you, because he didn't say anything about doing that.
And I don't recall any premier in Ontario history, before this one, deciding that the Constitution didn't apply to him. Do you?
I don't like autocratic leaders. No matter the stripe.
I did not like Jean Chrétien. I grew to dislike Stephen Harper as his autocratic style became more and more apparent, culminating in it costing an average citizen $78,000 to ask Harper a question during an election campaign, As everyone knows, I despise Donald Trump. His autocracy has a novel twist: he doesn't just ignore contrary information and events, he actively insists they're all fake news.
And Doug Ford? I already disliked him....he missed more than half of Toronto city council votes in 2014, during his single lacklustre term. He enabled his infamous younger brother at every step. And even before the election, I was warning how similar he was to Mr. Trump.
Now? Now Ford is right at the top of my (s)hit list. And no matter your politics, he should be at the top of yours, too.
One of his first acts as Premier was to unilaterally cut Toronto city council from 47 wards to 25...while a municipal election campaign was ongoing. His petty and vengeful motives were immediately clear: he's still upset he lost the last Toronto municipal election, and he's taking it out on the winners.
Now, to be clear. the premier of Ontario has every right to do whatever he wants with municipalities. In fact, when the City of Toronto launched its court case against Ford's diktat, it was given slim odds of succeeding. And yet.
Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba ruled that Doug Ford had violated the Constitution twice over, by restricting the freedom of expression of voters and candidates. In other words, as Mayor John Tory noted, "you can't change the rules of the game in the middle of the game...and this isn't a game."
There was a right way to do this, if Ford was determined to (and he obviously is): allow the election in progress to progress, and pass a law for the next one. But Ford doesn't like waiting, and so he lost his case. Too bad, so sad, and -- oh, you son of a bitch!
Those were exactly the words I intoned to myself as I read Ford's response. He's not only appealing, which I expected, he's invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights to, in effect, say to the Superior Court Justice, "nyah-nyah-nyah nyah nyah, you can't make me!"
You don't hear much about the notwithstanding clause lately. Put very simply, it allows a government to override almost all of your rights, for a period of up to five years (although it may be reset indefinitely). It was originally intended to be used only in emergencies. because practically the only things it CAN'T override are your rights to vote, move around in Canada, and speak and receive government services in either English or French. That's right, if a government decides something it's doing trumps your right to life, liberty, and security of the person...not to mention your freedom of expression...all it needs to do is invoke section 33, the notwithstanding clause. Nice, eh? There's a state in Australia with something similar, but other than that, this monster is uniquely Canadian.
Only two provinces and one territory have ever used it since it came into force with the rest of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Québec wrote it into every single law for five years in an effort to shield its laws from court challenge, and then later used it to ensure it could restrict certain commercial signage in languages other than French. This did not, needless to say, make the notwithstanding clause very popular in the rest of Canada.
Now here's Doug Ford promising to use the notwithstanding clause simply because he finds a judicial ruling "unacceptable". And promising he'll keep doing it.
I could argue whether Toronto should have 47 councillors or 25. I won't bother, because the specific issue here is not the point. If you're going to ignore a judge, you'd better have a damned good reason to do it...and this isn't even close.
What will Ford ignore next? THAT's the question you should be asking yourself. By repeatedly invoking the notwithstanding clause, he can do almost anything he wants.
Well, maybe not anything. I've been musing for quite some time on what might happen if Toronto were to lobby for provincial status.
Mel Lastman wanted to go that route when he was being bullied the last time the Conservatives were in power. Harris forced unwanted amalgamation on the city, and it still hasn't recovered. Moreover, people outside Toronto, particularly in Northern Ontario, have been begging for it for decades, because they've been fundamentally all but ignored. While it's definitely true T.O. is the economic powerhouse of the province...there is life north of Steeles, east of Morningside and west of Milton.
It won't happen, though. Absolutely will not happen. A new province would require the assent of Parliament and seven current provinces comprising half the population of the country. Oh, yeah, and Queen's Park would have to agree. Since Doug Ford believes he's the mayor of Toronto, that ain't gonna happen.
A better option would be Trudeau using Section 56 of the Constitution. Called "disallowance", it's about the only thing that trumps Section 33. It hasn't been used since 1961, more pertinently since 1982 when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms passed, so there's no way of knowing if it would work. But there are times when the only answer to a bully is a bigger bully, and I think this is one of these times.
In the meantime, if anyone's got any better ideas, I'm all ears.