The Ontario government has filed notice to appeal a judge’s ruling that killed Premier Doug Ford’s original proposed cut to Toronto council.
In doing so, it plans to argue that municipal voters do not have a Charter right to effective representation and that the province was treated unfairly by not having enough time to respond to the court challenges.
The notice to appeal came on the same day the Ford government tabled a new bill in the legislature in its second attempt to reduce the number of Toronto’s wards to 25 from 47 for next month’s municipal election.
The province is also asking for a stay of the ruling released Monday by Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba, which returned the election to a 47-ward race. It requests the motion for a stay be heard by a judge on Sept. 18.
It will cause “irreparable harm” if a 47-ward election continues, the province argues in its written materials.
“Allowing the 25-ward election to proceed would avoid cost, disruption and inconvenience, rather than cause it,” the motion reads. Noting the city clerk earlier raised concerns she could not have enough time to prepare a 47-ward election, the province said it would be in the “public interest” to move forward with a 25-ward election ahead of a decision on the appeal. But since Belobaba’s ruling, the city clerk has said she is proceeding with the 47-ward election for Oct. 22.
The province argues Belobaba erred in law by finding Bill 5 infringed Charter-protected rights of freedom of expression by being introduced in the midst of an ongoing campaign, and that the right to “effective representation” tied to a separate section of the Charter is not guaranteed in municipal elections.
In his ruling, Belobaba wrote: “If voting is indeed one of the most important expressive activities in a free and democratic society, then it follows that any judicial analysis of its scope and content under the freedom of expression guarantee should acknowledge and accommodate voting’s core purpose, namely effective representation.”