The City of Toronto Act is supposed to be a sort of city charter, defining the powers of the municipal government and how they work. It is still on the books, for now. Officially.
But it would appear obvious, after the past two months and especially the past week, that the act has been effectively replaced. Instead we get the City of Toronto Actor: Premier Doug Ford. He’s gonna say how it’s gonna be. Period.
That’s an obvious enough conclusion after his snap decision to rewrite the rules of city government and election law in the middle of a Toronto election campaign, then haul out the notwithstanding clause to enforce that decision after a judge ruled it unconstitutional.
It’s an obvious enough conclusion from his promise that he won’t be shy about using that power to set aside the Charter of Rights and Freedoms again — and his further comments making it clear he doesn’t believe in constitutional democracy as it exists in Canada, demonizing not just a judge but the entire role of judges in reviewing legislation as illegitimate.
It’s obvious from his rhetoric about the “downtown NDP councillors” and Mayor John Tory, and Ford’s clear focus not on provincial issues but on Toronto — so much so that, when NDP leader Andrea Horwath accused him during Question Period of being “obsessed with his enemies on Toronto council,” he responded, “We were elected on making sure we fix this city.”
Ford announced he was running for mayor of Toronto four years ago, on Sept. 12, 2014. He lost in that campaign. But one term of council later, he’s done better: As premier of Ontario, he appears ready to see himself as essentially All Powerful Boss of Toronto. And at this point, nothing in law or politics seems likely to disabuse him of that notion.
By now we’re past observing that his meddling with the size of council has thrown the election itself into chaos.
What’s coming into focus is just how much of the election debate we might otherwise have had — the one we might mostly still have — is now kind of irrelevant.