Ontario’s Premier says he is ready to use the notwithstanding clause whenever courts strike down his laws as ‘unconstitutional’
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he will override Canada’s Constitution to overturn a court decision that ruled his move to redraw Toronto’s political boundaries in the middle of the city’s municipal election is “unconstitutional.”
And if the courts keep striking down his bad laws as unconstitutional, Ford says he’s ready to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the constitution “again in the future” too.
The court ruling set the stage for a dramatic press conference Monday afternoon, where Ford floated conspiracy theories about the judge and casually shrugged off core principles of civilized society, namely the rule of law.
Doug Ford essentially says his government is not bound by the rule of law: “What’s extraordinary is a democratic government trying to be shut down by the courts.”
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) September 10, 2018
The courts ruled Ford’s law, which gerrymandered political districts in a transparent bid to rig Toronto’s election, is undemocratic. So, Ford accused the courts of being undemocratic for upholding the constitution.
At his press conference, Ford complained to reporters that a “democratically elected government” is being “shut down by the courts.”
He also falsely accused the judge of being a crony appointed by former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, even though the judge was not appointed by McGuinty – the judge was an appointment by the federal government.
Ford dismissed suggestions he was behaving like a “dictator” by arguing he has more authority than the courts because he won the provincial election.
“I was elected, the judge was appointed,” Ford said, implying the courts have no legitimacy to strike down unconstitutional laws.
“Democracy is going every four years to elect a government … without worrying about your mandate being overturned.”
Early reaction to the move has not been good for Ford.
The National Post’s Andrew Coyne notes Ford inexplicably turned an controversy over the size of Toronto City Council into a referendum on “constitutional government and the rule of law”:
“Throughout his blustering afternoon press conference, Ford revealed a view of government, and of democracy, that is essentially pre-constitutional. The past several centuries of effort to constrain government to act within certain legal boundaries were swept away with a peremptory ‘I was elected’.”
That’s echoed by the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee:
“Mr. Ford isn’t just challenging one judge on one ruling, he is challenging the rule of law itself.”
Meanwhile, the Toronto Star’s editorial board wonders “who will be the next group to be brushed aside, their charter rights disrespected and disregarded?”:
“This premier has served notice that he doesn’t respect other peoples’ rights and, despite his token protestations to the contrary, he doesn’t respect the role of the judiciary in interpreting and enforcing them.”
Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath affirmed that “democracy includes an independent judiciary” and described Ford’s move as a “personal vendetta against his political enemies at City Hall.”
Doug Ford is suspending Charter rights all for a personal vendetta against his political enemies at City Hall.
Our democracy includes an independent judiciary & a free media to protect ppl from politicians who believe an electoral majority is a mandate to trample people’s rights.
— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) September 10, 2018
Many Toronto city councillors loudly condemned Ford’s move to override the constitution and interfere with the city’s upcoming election.
Overriding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at a whim, when you’ve been found to be violating the constitutional rights of Ontarians, is absolutely terrifying. Doug Ford will use the Notwithstanding clause whenever he fails to get what he wants. The makings of a dictator.
— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) September 10, 2018
This is a nuclear attack on the City of Toronto by Doug Ford. It is terrifying to think that he wants to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will keep fighting for our city and for local democracy.
— Paula Fletcher (@PaulaFletcher36) September 10, 2018
The point of the notwithstanding clause is to acknowledge that a Provincial law violates the constitution (in this case the right to freedom of expession) and to go ahead anyway. Ford is saying literally what he wants is more important than our rights.
— Gord Perks (@gordperks) September 10, 2018
The Council cut is an affront to democracy, but this is the real scary shit. He’s saying that any number of fundamental freedoms and/or legal rights should be subject to strict majority rule. https://t.co/e7NLoSTYvm
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) September 10, 2018
Ergo, to hell with the Charter. https://t.co/gioiwz6A8F
— Andrew Coyne (@acoyne) September 10, 2018
— Susan Delacourt (@SusanDelacourt) September 10, 2018
So, to get this straight, the Premier of Ontario has decided to invoke his power to override the constitution of Canada in order to settle a personal score from his time as a one-term city councilor.
— Ivor Tossell (@ivortossell) September 10, 2018
Doug Ford is turning something that he didn’t run on, that serves no urgent purpose, that his base wasn’t clamouring for, and that seems to be based mostly on personal beefs from his days as a municipal politician into his defining issue as premier.
— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) September 10, 2018
Really looking forward to November when the Tories introduce the “Better Local Government and Also Retroactively Randy Ford is the Mayor and Sole Councillor of Toronto with the Northwithstanding Clause No Backsies Act 2018”
— John Michael McGrath (@jm_mcgrath) September 10, 2018
This should chill every Ontarian, whether they voted Conservative or not. All Ontarians need to reflect deeply on the dangerous implications of a Premier that imposes his personal agenda by any means.
— Broadbent Institute (@broadbent) September 10, 2018