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City Hall employees hang a map of the new City of Toronto 25 Electoral Wards Map inside the election services office at Toronto City Hall on Thursday, September 20, 2018.Tijana Martin

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s intervention in Toronto’s election was “ridiculous” and “outrageous,” mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat told a business luncheon on Thursday, adding that with the province’s financial problems, Queen’s Park should instead be minding its own business.

In her first major campaign address to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Ms. Keesmaat said that Ontario is one of the most heavily indebted jurisdictions in Canada and that Mr. Ford’s promises to cut gas taxes and subsidize electricity and beer will increase the province’s structural budget deficit.

“When your business is that bad, you should mind your own business,” she said, sparking laughter from her audience of about 100 people. “And not waste time on ridiculous interventions in our business – the structure of Toronto City Council.”

In an e-mail, Ford spokesman Simon Jefferies said Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservative government was “working tirelessly to put more money back into the pockets of taxpayers, restore trust in Ontario’s finances, and deliver smaller, better government.” He also said shrinking its council would help Toronto move forward on transit and affordable housing, and save $25-million over four years, a figure the city’s senior officials dispute.

Ms. Keesmaat’s speech came the day after an Ontario Court of Appeal decision put in place his plan to cut the number of councillors to 25 from 47. The decision stayed a lower-court ruling that had declared the move unconstitutional.

A final decision on the case could still be months away – long after the Oct. 22 vote. Lawyers for the city and the candidates who challenged Mr. Ford are still considering their options, and would not say if they would launch an appeal of the stay order – a move that would require taking the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

With attention turning to other issues in the municipal campaign, Ms. Keesmaat, the city’s former chief planner, repeated her attacks on Mayor John Tory, whom she accuses of lax leadership in the fight with the Premier.

Ms. Keesmaat had few specifics about how she would have tried to block Mr. Ford’s move, but said Mr. Tory should have drawn “a line in the sand” when the Premier first raised the idea in what Mr. Tory has described as an offhand manner at a meeting between the two men in early July.

Asked by reporters this week about Ms. Keesmaat’s criticism, the mayor said he spoke out strongly as soon as Mr. Ford made it clear he intended to proceed with his plan.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Tory’s campaign, Keerthana Kamalavasan, accused Ms. Keesmaat of playing politics with the issue: “It’s disappointing that instead of getting on board with Team Toronto in the fight against [Mr. Ford’s legislation], the Mayor’s opponent has been on Team Jennifer Keesmaat – constantly playing politics on this issue, calling him names and spinning conspiracy theories.”

In her speech, Ms. Keesmaat said that, to mitigate the effects of having fewer councillors, the city should look to add citizens to the community councils, which are subcommittees made up of councillors that decide certain local issues. With just 25 councillors, those committees will now be much smaller. Speaking to reporters afterward, she said how new citizen members were chosen would have to be worked out.

Meanwhile, at City Hall, candidates were filing through the election office to register under Mr. Ford’s 25-ward system. While the city clerk had warned last week that the uncertainty around the election was threatening her ability to run it fairly, the city said on Thursday that preparations were on track for the Oct. 22 vote. Many of the battles across the new wards will pit two long-serving incumbents against one another, producing the most competitive races in years.

In the downtown area, Councillor Joe Cressy signed up in Spadina-Fort York, Mike Layton in University-Rosedale, and Kristyn Wong-Tam filed her papers to run in Toronto Centre, where the registered candidates so far also include former mayoral candidate and provincial health minister George Smitherman.

Ms. Wong-Tam said the conventional wisdom that incumbents are always front-runners is not a safe assumption, noting that her new ward is much larger than her former one.

She said she hoped the drama around Mr. Ford’s intervention would fade and allow discussion of other issues facing the city, such as neighbourhood safety and affordable housing: “The lawyers on the legal challenge will sort that out. We need to focus on the issues that matter to Torontonians.”