Toronto mayor not ruling out legal action against province over council size


TORONTO — The mayor of Toronto is keeping the door open to mounting a court challenge against the province’s plan to cut the size of city council nearly in half in the middle of a municipal election campaign.

John Tory says he supports a motion due to be tabled at city hall today that would see the city examine legal options to stall Premier Doug Ford’s proposed changes.

Last week, Ford announced he wanted to reduce the number Toronto council seats from 47 to 25 while leaving council makeups in other major urban centres untouched.

Ford argues a smaller council would improve efficiency and effectiveness at Toronto City Hall, and says residents will cast their ballots on Oct. 22 as planned.

Scholars and lawyers have said that one of the ways to delay Ford’s plan from taking effect during the current campaign is to mount a legal challenge against the measures and seek a court injunction.

Tory says he’s open to “examining and pursuing” all legal options against the act, which is due to be tabled in the Ontario legislature this afternoon.

“It’s one of those cases that’s difficult for us because of the broad powers the province has, but I think we should be taking a look at every possible legal avenue, really, to hit the pause button on this,” Tory said. “I don’t think there’s any way we can stop it necessarily in the context of the province not able to move forward with changes to the City of Toronto Act…but I think we sure can call into question the process here.”

Tory maintained that the provincial plans were foisted on the city without consultation or even adequate warning.

The mayor said Ford had referenced his plans in a meeting in what he described as an “offhand way,” adding the premier appeared to drop the subject after hearing Tory’s view on the impracticality of implementing the changes in the middle of an unfolding campaign.

Tory said he got wind of Ford’s plans to proceed in media reports before he spoke with the premier directly.

He said it’s difficult to form concrete legal plans before the provincial bill has been tabled, but added that city lawyers can start researching the matter and determining how best to proceed.

Tory has said the reduction of city council should be put to a referendum and not acted upon until residents’ preferences are known.

He said he heard from numerous residents who oppose the way Ford has gone about implementing the proposed changes.

“What there is virtual unanimity on is that this is a deeply flawed process where something is being jammed on the City of Toronto without consultation, without proper discussion, without seeking the views of the public in any way,” he said.

Hundreds of protesters came to city hall on Friday to voice their opposition to Ford’s proposed changes, and another protest is scheduled for Monday.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


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