Toronto back in court over Ford government’s mid-election council cuts

Premier Doug Ford’s government and the City of Toronto are facing off again in court over Ontario’s decision to slash the number of council seats mid-election.

On Monday and Tuesday, the province’s Court of Appeal is hearing from the province for a second time. During both days of hearings, CBC News has been granted permission to have cameras in the courtroom.

The appeal follows a decision by a panel of judges to stay a lower court’s ruling on Bill 5 last September that led to the city holding a 25-ward election after months of flip-flopping and frantic preparation.

Ford first announced his surprise decision last July to chop the number of wards from a planned 47-ward system to 25 seats aligned with provincial ridings.

“For too long, the people of Toronto have watched city council go around, and around and around in circles,” Ford said at the time.

When Bill 5 came into force, the election campaign was “past the halfway mark,” notes the city’s latest factum to the Court of Appeal, which caused “unprecedented disruption” to candidates, voters, and the city.

In the province’s factum, the Ministry of the Attorney General argues that while the larger wards may have meant more work for candidates hoping to win, “this does not infringe freedom of expression.”

“The ratio of constituents to councillors is now equal to that at the federal and provincial levels … There is nothing unique in municipalities to require a lower constituent to councillor ratio for constitutional or municipal governance purposes,” the factum continues.

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