When the late Rob Ford began wreaking real havoc at Toronto City Hall, many observers hatched bright ideas to ensure it could never happen again. The most severe involved mechanisms whereby a mayor could be literally fired mid-term, by councillors or by voters, instead of almost literally fired: council eventually voted to strip Ford of nearly all his powers, at which point he declared “you guys have just attacked Kuwait” and then barrelled into an elderly female councillor on his way to intervene in what he thought was a fight involving his city councillor brother Doug.
Doug Ford wasn’t in a fight, but he did call people in the public gallery “scumbags,” alleged the proceedings were a “kangaroo court” and told councillor Paul Ainslie he should keep his mouth shut about Rob’s terrible substance abuse problems because he (Ainslie) once had his driver’s licence suspended for three days for blowing over .05. At this point, sitting in his chair, Rob rather brilliantly pantomimed driving drunk.
Then-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford knocks over Councillor Pam McConnell, left, and mocks councillor Paul Ainslie with a drunk driving mime in one memorable Toronto City Council session on Nov. 18, 2013.
Never doing this again was a downright unimpeachable goal. But Ford cases make bad laws. Recall powers, for example, are an open invitation for another brand of chaos. And Premier Doug Ford’s decision to use the notwithstanding clause to chop Toronto city council in half with just weeks before the municipal election — Operation Desert Storm, if you will — has produced no shortage of terrible supposed remedies.
In a special meeting on Thursday, City Council voted 29-7 to request the feds “exercise the power of Disallowance with respect to Bill 31,” in order “to preserve respect for fundamental rights and freedoms provided for in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Bananas. The notwithstanding clause is in the Charter. Saskatchewan invoked it earlier this year, after a court ruling found the Charter exemption for constitutionally enshrined religious schools does not apply to children at those schools who are not of the faith. With opposition NDP support, the government launched an appeal and used the notwithstanding clause in the meantime — the exact manoeuvre Ontario is performing (albeit far less defensibly).
Conrad Black: Ford invoking the notwithstanding clause was what Canada neededRex Murphy: Shrinking Toronto’s government won’t bring our federation to its knees. ProbablyToronto council dispute distracting from …read more