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Sept. 12: ‘It should be called the notunderstanding clause.’ Letters to the editor debate Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Charter tactics

Ontario Premier Doug Ford (left) and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, attend a press conference to address the Ontario Superior Court's decision that the provincial government's legislation to slash the size of Toronto's city council during an election was deemed unconstitutional.

Fred Lum

Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Try to keep letters to fewer than 150 words. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: letters@globeandmail.com

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s threat to use the notwithstanding clause whenever he feels like it demonstrates that he has no concept of the effect this will have on the rule of law (Ford Defies Court, Vows to Override Council-Cuts Ruling – Sept. 11). Checks and balances exist in a constitutional democracy for a reason. In Mr. Ford’s case, it should be called the not-understanding clause.

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Richard J. Pantel, North Vancouver

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An editorial you published the year after the Charter became law recognized the threat it posed (Principles In Collision – Oct. 7, 1983). You wrote then: “Use of the notwithstanding clause should in any case be rare, or it would emasculate the Charter. But the language of the Charter is very broad and seems to give the court the power to review anything. Yet there are certain decisions with which the court has no business, which belong to elected representatives. Perhaps anybody may bring any case to court, but the court should be very careful of the cases it chooses to hear, or democracy in Canada could come under the dictatorship of the courts. Canada cannot let the courts take over the duties of the elected, but might we have to go to the absurd lengths of repealing the Charter of Rights to be sure of this?”

In this case, even the Toronto media (no friends of the Premier) seem to have had trouble finding legal opinions giving the city more than a remote chance of winning in court. Obviously, they underestimated our courts.

There is no serious infringement of any rights here. Quebec invoked the notwithstanding clause regularly for several years, and the world didn’t end. Mr. Ford is here to show that government can make things happen. If the next government doesn’t like what he does, it can change it. It’s not up to the courts except in the clearest of cases. This is not one.

Gregory A. Piasetzki, Toronto

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If a petulant Doug Ford is okay with rolling out the constitutional Big Bertha weapon, the notwithstanding clause, to bludgeon his agenda through at all costs, then I see no reason why the federal government should hesitate in turn to employ one of the rarely used (in recent times) Howitzers in its toolkit – the disallowance power – which gives the cabinet a year to wipe any act of a provincial legislature off the statute book. After all, if you want to play with fire you should expect to get burned.

Eric Bender, Kirkland, Que.

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Doug Ford’s move “to stand up for the people of Ontario” by forcing a single local council to downsize was not part of his platform, and was certainly not asked for by the people of Ontario. It betrays a serious ignorance of what’s important in Ontario and what is not.

Ila Bossons, Toronto

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While I do not see myself as part of Ford Nation, I believe it is entirely appropriate for the Premier to make political decisions regarding Toronto’s municipal government, decisions for which he retains full accountability, especially at the next election. For a judge to substitute his own – in my view, political – judgment, for which he carries zero personal accountability, is wrong and incompatible with good governance. I applaud Mr. Ford’s determined response.

Richard Patterson, Wasaga Beach, Ont.

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It is not out of the question to suggest that the recent emergence of populism can be traced to an activist, unelected judiciary making policy, often at odds with the policies of elected officials. This overreach by the courts renders, to a degree, elected officials impotent to implement policies that might be supported by voters.

Starting with the Singh decision of the Supreme Court of Canada which greatly expanded the reach of the Charter, to that court’s decision that Indigenous concerns must be considered, including on national infrastructure projects, to the rejection of Trans Mountain by the Federal Court of Appeal, to an Ontario justice’s reversal of Premier Doug Ford’s cut to the size of Toronto’s council – these all represent judicial policy-making which may not be supported by most Canadians.

Mr. Ford’s reduction in the size of Toronto’s council, or the Prime Minister’s decision on Trans Mountain can be accepted or rejected by voters. When a judge makes what amounts to a policy decision, it is isolated from voter review. Such inability to influence the decision makers can lead to voter disillusionment, with the process thereby supporting a populist movement.

Andrew Suboch, Toronto

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I am not part of a special-interest group. I am not a candidate in any election. What I am is a resident of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario, whose rights have been trampled on by Doug Ford in his attempt to meddle with Toronto’s election while the election is under way, and whose rights are about to be utterly violated by the unprecedented use of the Charter’s notwithstanding clause. And I am livid.

As it stands, though I have the right to vote in the imminent municipal election in Toronto, I don’t know with certainty what my riding is, I don’t know who my candidates are, and I don’t even know if the election I am entitled to vote in will occur as scheduled. That election is supposed to be in 40 days. This is the stuff of Third World dictatorships, not Canada. And every single ounce of it is Doug Ford’s fault. It is unforgivable, and so is any attempt to support his outrageous vendetta.

Jonathan Moscardini, Toronto

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Reaching for the notwithstanding clause to reverse a stinging court decision that rebukes the province for changing the number of wards in a municipal election that’s already under way? Someone’s had a few too many buck-a-beers …

Eric Pelletier, Toronto

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When politicians become bullies, it is up to the judiciary to rein them in. One wonders whether the Progressive Conservative members of the Legislature will have the courage to stand up for the Charter when this matter comes to a vote.

Michael Benedict, Toronto

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If Doug Ford really wants MPPs in his party to be free to “vote their conscience” on this issue, he should allow the vote to proceed by secret ballot.

Ronald Wintrobe, Toronto

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The act that cuts the size of Toronto’s council is sloppy legislation, not based on evidence. Yet initiatives based on reputable study – the guaranteed income project, safe injection sites and revised sex-ed curriculum – were all cancelled, claiming more research was needed. Not a shining moment of democracy.

Worse is Doug Ford’s claim he’s protecting democracy while labelling the judiciary as the enemy of parliaments. Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba did not interfere with the Legislature, but pointed out the Legislature’s errors. This is democracy.

Diane Mohan, Toronto

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I’ve been out of the country. While I was away, did Ontario’s Premier receive a DNA implant from Donald Trump? Or is he simply Trump of the North? Either way, will the last person to leave Ontario please turn off the lights.

David Gray, Sidney, B.C.

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