Monday, 24 September, 2018

Toronto city clerk says it's becoming 'virtually impossible' to hold municipal election

Ford orders Legislature to sit Saturday to speed up passage of bill to slash Toronto council Ontario legislature to hold rare Saturday session to expedite Bill 31 passage
Elijah Vega | 16 September, 2018, 05:58

Toronto Mayor John Tory has said invoking the clause is a "gross overreach" of the province's powers, adding city staff will advise councillors at a special meeting on Thursday how the municipality can proceed with the upcoming October 22 election.

Toronto city clerk Ulli Watkiss said every delay between now and the October 22 vote affects her ability to ensure fairness, regardless of whether Toronto's electoral map will retain its current 47 wards, or 25, as the Ontario government wants. "Both scenarios are becoming virtually impossible for us to carry out".

Toronto Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, called the province's actions are "wrong and unacceptable".

The city does have the support of 25 Liberal MPs from Toronto who say Doug Ford is being heavy-handed and disrespectful in using the notwithstanding clause.

The clause allows a government to have a law operate in spite of a right found in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Toronto had challenged the province's 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.

"I know we can do better than this when it comes to recognizing and respecting cities for the important role they play in every aspect of our lives in Canada", said Tory. "The dysfunction follows a certain individual around wherever he happens to be elected".

"Shame on you Doug Ford", another shouted.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said Thursday that he still believes the city can head to the polls as scheduled.

Israeli forces start demolishing protest caravans around Bedouin community
Khan al-Ahmar's demolition had already been approved by the court in May, which the judges noted in their decision last week. However, evictions from Khan el-Ahmar - authorized in a definitive manner by the Israeli Supreme Court - has not yet begun.

The NDP said Thursday that it will challenge the bill under rules that preclude legislators from introducing substantially the same bill twice in one session, and that bar the legislature from debating a item now before the courts.

It capped off a rowdy day at Queen's Park that saw protesters removed from the public galleries, including some seniors in restraints who had refused to budge after Speaker Ted Arnott gave the order to clear the viewing areas of the legislature.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath noted that several provincial and federal Conservatives have spoken out against the notwithstanding clause.

In advance of today's meeting, Federation of Canadian Municipalities Big City Mayors'Caucus Chair Don Iveson released a statement criticizing Ford's use of the notwithstanding clause and offering the City of Toronto "full support" in their "efforts to protect local democracy".

The premier, however, once again dismissed arguments that he is overriding charter rights, saying the notwithstanding clause is itself part of the Constitution.

"We've used the notwithstanding clause in this province in the not too distant past", Moe said.

"That's the whole point of the charter, it outlives and outlasts any one political movement or party.it goes to our fundamental rights as people".

But with such contentious legislation from the Ford government, we expected a lively and informed debate Wednesday; after all, there are a plethora of constitutional and procedural points that the opposition could have brought to the fray.

An email marked "Strictly Confidential" was sent to Progressive Conservative MPPs Thursday night ordering them back to the Legislature Saturday at 1 p.m.

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