Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

The first meeting of the new and reduced Toronto city council is seen in a Dec. 4, 2018, file photo.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Canada’s highest court agreed on Thursday to hear Toronto’s challenge to a unilateral decision by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that slashed the size of city council midway through the last municipal election.

The legislation nearly two years ago cut the number of council seats to 25 from 47 and sparked widespread anger from critics who denounced it as undemocratic and a vindictive measure from Mr. Ford, a failed mayoral candidate and one-term councillor under his late brother, former mayor Rob Ford.

“Ontario’s position in the Supreme Court of Canada will be that the decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario should be upheld,” Jenessa Crognali, a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Doug Downey, said in a statement. “As this matter is before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Story continues below advertisement

Through a spokesman, Toronto Mayor John Tory thanked the court for taking on the case.

“There are serious legal issues to be addressed in this matter and the mayor is gratified the court recognized that,” Don Peat said.

It’s unclear when the case might be argued. The top court has, in line with most other public services, sharply curtailed activities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Peat said he expects the hearing would only happen “well after this emergency is over.”

At the time of the legislation, the then-new Premier defended his action as a necessary streamlining that would save $25-million.

The city initially won a victory when a Superior Court justice found the law unconstitutional. Justice Edward Belobaba ruled the legislation infringed on the free-expression rights of candidates by affecting their ability to campaign. He also said it ran afoul of voters’ rights by stopping them from casting a ballot that could result in effective representation.

The legislation, Justice Belobaba said in his ruling, “undermined an otherwise fair and equitable election process” and the Ford government had “clearly crossed the line” into undemocratic territory.

With Mr. Ford threatening to invoke the charter’s notwithstanding clause, the province won a stay of the ruling and the election proceeded under the new legislation while it appealed.

Story continues below advertisement

The act is a “meaningful, proportionate measure to address the dysfunction caused by having too many councillors – ungoverned by party discipline,” the province said in its arguments to the Court of Appeal. “A smaller council can operate more effectively as a deliberative body, with a lower burden on city staff.”

For its part, the city wanted Ontario’s top court to let the 2018 election results stand until the next vote in 2022 but strike down the legislation – known as the Better Local Government Act – as unconstitutional. Among other arguments, it said the legislation violated unwritten constitutional principles of democracy.

“A province does not have the power [under the Constitution] to enact legislation that makes the election of a democratically elected municipal government undemocratic,” the city argued.

In its 3-2 decision last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned Justice Belobaba’s ruling, saying the sudden legislation did not interfere with either candidates’ or voters’ ability to express themselves freely.

The right to free expression, Justice Bradley Miller wrote for the majority five-judge panel, did not amount to a right to effective or successful expression. Two judges dissented, however, saying they would have struck the law down. The legislation, they said, did indeed interfere with the free-expression rights of candidates.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies