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Globe editorial: Doug Ford’s swipe at Toronto is undemocratic and should be stopped

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s unilateral and unexpected plan to shrink the size of Toronto city council is deeply problematic. He is tackling a legitimate issue, but doing it in a misleading and undemocratic manner.

It is false for him to claim, as he did on Friday, that his vague campaign promise to cut the size of government somehow translates into a highly specific mandate to reduce the Toronto council from 47 seats to 25.

He is disingenuous when he justifies his decision by saying that bigger cities, such as London and Los Angeles, have smaller municipal councils, because he is leaving out the fact that both those cities also have large numbers of borough councils.

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He is being wilfully ignorant when he fails to acknowledge that one reason for Toronto’s inability to take decisive action on major issues, such as transit and housing, is that the city is at the mercy of provincial and federal governments for the necessary funding.

And, as Mayor John Tory said, it is unacceptable for any politician to unilaterally decide how people are represented. A change to the city’s democracy should only take place after consultation with the public, and it certainly shouldn’t be done in the middle of an ongoing election.

Mr. Ford’s personal disdain for Toronto’s government, where he served as an ineffectual councillor and failed to win the mayorship, is all too well known.

But he isn’t wrong when he points out that many councillors have life-long sinecures and suggests that a smaller council could enliven the city’s democracy.

In fact, it would be a real service if his government held public consultations to examine all the ways Toronto could be better run, and then proposed appropriate legislation in plenty of time to bring in reforms prior to the 2022 municipal election.

Possible improvements could include a smaller council, term limits for councillors and additional revenue options for Toronto so that it can better fund the improvements it needs. All these issues deserve attention.

Instead, Mr. Ford has taken a populist swipe at Toronto that has more than a whiff of score-settling to it. It ought to be stopped.

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