Toronto Liberal MPs slam Ford's 'heavy-handed' use of notwithstanding clause

Bill Davis

Bill Davis

Premier Doug Ford has ordered the provincial legislature to sit for a rare Saturday session, the Toronto Sun has learned.

Toronto had challenged the province's council-cutting legislation in court and a judge agreed that passing the bill in the middle of municipal election campaign violated the freedom of expression rights for voters and candidates.

Previous Ontario premiers have faced tough decisions over the decades without having to resort to the notwithstanding clause, said Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, a spokeswoman for the Toronto caucus.

"I firmly believe you don't make a bad law better by overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms", he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear, however, that Ottawa would not block the Ontario government's unprecedented use of a constitutional provision to push through with its plan to reduce Toronto's electoral map to 25 wards from 47.

He would only say that the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Ontario provincial government and that is up to Ford to explain his decision.

Scheer refused to speculate about whether he would use the notwithstanding clause if he forms government.

Ms. Watkiss said the city was at a "tipping point" regarding its ability to run a fair election amid all the confusion about what the city's ward boundaries would be - with just weeks to go before voting day.

Toronto politicians are to hold an emergency meeting today to weigh their next steps after the Ontario government moved to revive a controversial bill that would slash city council almost in half.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said he still believes the city can head to the polls as scheduled. "We're all here to keep standing up for Toronto".

Clark would not say whether the province has a backup plan should the clerk find that the city can not be ready in time, despite repeated questions on the issue.

Tabled Wednesday, the controversial bill passed first reading during a raucous session that saw New Democrat MPPs engage in a noisy protest that resulted in many of them ejected from the legislature.

"While the NDP are playing procedural games to delay the passage of the Efficient Local Government Act, the PCs are willing to work around the clock through the weekend to speed up the passage of the bill", he said in the statement.