News, Politics

Premier Doug Ford Uses “Notwithstanding Clause”

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Doug Ford. Image: Bruce Reeve
Doug Ford. Image: Bruce Reeve

In June, the province of Ontario got a new premier: Doug Ford. His political party* won the election in a landslide and has a “majority government.” That means the party Ford leads has more votes than all of the other political parties put together, and it gives them a lot of power to get things done.

Recently, Ford and his party used that power in a way that has upset some people.

It all began when Ford announced that he was going to reduce the number of city councillors in Toronto from 47 to 25. Toronto is one of the largest cities in Ontario. (A city councillor is an elected, local community leader.)

Ford says having fewer councillors will make the city run better.

But people who don’t agree with Ford say he is only doing it because he doesn’t like some of the Toronto councillors. They say it’s not a business move–it’s personal.

Doug Ford is the brother of the late Rob Ford, who was the mayor of Toronto before he passed away. There were many people Rob Ford didn’t get along with on Toronto council. Some people say that this move by his brother is to get back at those people.

There are 443 other municipal councils in Ontario. Ford is not making changes to them–only Toronto.

Toronto’s councillors are in the middle of an election campaign. Since May 1, they have been campaigning–trying to get people to vote for them, so they can be reelected.

That is why, earlier this month Ontario’s lawmakers stepped in. The Superior Court of Justice Ontario decided that Ford could not make the cuts in the middle of an election campaign. Justice Edward Belobaba said that Ford had not explained how reducing the number of city councillors would help the city.

Justice Edward Belobaba said in his ruling that the move “…was hurriedly enacted to take effect in the middle of the city’s election without much thought at all, more out of pique than principle.”

That’s when Doug Ford did something dramatic. He overruled the court.

He used (“invoked”) something called the “notwithstanding clause.” That is a little-used power that lets the premier do what he wants, even though a judge said he couldn’t.

He was able to do this because he has a majority government. That gives him the most votes in Ontario parliament.

It is the first time in Ontario’s history the “notwithstanding clause” of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been used.

Many people disagree with the premier using this power. They say Ford should let the courts decide what is legal and what should be done.

They say that if the government did this once, it might do it again.

Ford and his supporters say that elected officials, like the premier, should make the rules and not the judges.

*Doug Ford is the leader of the Ontario PCs–the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Note: The first paragraph of this article was edited, to better reflect the fact that people voted for the PCs, not specifically for Doug Ford.

The Story Behind the Story: Bias

Related Links

This Toronto Star article features highlights from Judge Belobaba’s ruling:
https://www.thestar.com/news/toronto-election/2018/09/11/what-the-judge-said-in-the-ruling-on-doug-fords-plan-to-cut-size-of-toronto-council.html

This Globe and Mail article explains the “notwithstanding clause”
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-why-a-judge-stopped-ontarios-reduction-of-toronto-city-council/

This article in the Toronto Star talks about judge Belobaba.
https://www.thestar.com/news/toronto-election/2018/08/21/heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-judge-in-the-toronto-council-cuts-case.html

This Toronto Sun article argues that Ford “had no choice” but to invoke the notwithstanding clause:
https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/furey-heres-why-ford-had-no-choice-with-the-notwithstanding-clause

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Today’s article ends, “Ford and his supporters say that elected officials, like the premier, should make the rules and not the judges.” What do you think? Who should ultimately make important decisions.

Reading Prompt: Variety of Texts
In the audio clip, author Joyce Grant encourages readers to get their news from many different sources in order to gain a fuller picture of the whole story. Search the web and find 2 additional stories that add to your understanding of the issue.

Junior
Read a variety of texts from diverse cultures, including literary texts ( (OME, Reading: 1.1)

Intermediate
Read a wide variety of increasingly complex or difficult texts from diverse cultures, including literary texts (OME, Reading: 1.1).

Language Feature: Long dash ( — )
A long dash, is a punctuation mark that is used to emphasize an additional piece of information. Look at its usage here: “There are 443 other municipal councils in Ontario. Ford is not making changes to them–only Toronto.” In this case, the long dash is meant to bring the readers attention to “only Toronto.”

Why might the author have chosen to use the long dash in this situation? How does the long dash impact your understanding of the sentence?