November 15, 2019
November 15, 2019 5:51 PM EST
Toronto city council chambersErnest Doroszuk / Toronto Sun
The battle over the size of Toronto Council may land on the lap of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The City of Toronto announced Friday it is seeking Leave to Appeal a court decision that upheld Bill 5 — the Doug Ford government’s legislation that shrunk council to 25 councillors plus a mayor.
It’s the latest move in a legal seesaw battle that began when the Ford government passed a law just before last year’s municipal election that thwarted a plan by the city to grow council to 47 councillors from 44.
Ford, a former member of Toronto Council, opted to align city wards with federal and provincial riding boundaries, shrinking the number of councillors to 25.
The city challenged the provincial law, which came mid-campaign, and Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found it to violate Charter rights.
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The Court of Appeal of Ontario, in a 3-2 decision, backed the province’s view and the election went ahead with 25 ridings.
Jenessa Crognali, a spokesperson for Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, said the government was pleased that the Court of Appeal for Ontario allowed an appeal of the Ontario Superior Court finding.
“The Court accepted Ontario’s position that the Better Local Government Act, 2018 (“Bill 5″) did not infringe the Charter s. 2(b) freedom of expression rights of either municipal voters or candidates,” Crognali said in an email Friday.
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If the Supreme Court opts to hear the appeal, city lawyers will argue that the case raises issues of national and public importance that require important constitutional interpretation.
“Interference with the framework in the middle of an election has the effect of disrupting the electoral expression of participants and upending the political discourse at the heart of an election,” city lawyers say in a written argument. “This case provides the Court with an opportunity to address this issue not only for the city, but for all municipalities across the country that are subject to democratic elections.”