Weeks away from municipal election on October 22, candidates for Beaches—East York city council are in ward-boundary limbo after a series of unprecedented judicial jigs and political pirouettes.
The shake-up, which involved Ontario’s Superior Court, Queen’s Park and Toronto City Hall, was over the provincial government’s decision to reduce the number of wards and city councillors to 25.
Initially, candidates for city council were running under the 47-ward model, which was to be implemented on December 1, 2018, when the new 2018-2022 term of city council begins.
All of that changed on July 30 when Premier Doug Ford introduced Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, to reduce the size of city council from 47 to 25 councillors. Under the new act, the boundaries for Beaches—East York would change to match the provincial riding, morphing two wards into one.
On August 14, 2018, Bill 5 was passed at Queen’s Park and the city set a new registration date for those interested in running for council under the 25-ward model.
From a campaign perspective, this meant that candidates for city councillor, many of which had been organizing their campaigns since May, had two weeks to change their campaign strategy after the bill was passed. New faces entered the race, while others decided to drop out.
For some candidates, this meant printed literature had to be destroyed, revised and increased to match the new ward boundaries, and fast — with the revised boundaries, the number of constituents in Beaches—East York jumps from 54,265 to 109,465 according to Elections Ontario and City of Toronto statistics.
Valerie Maltais, who registered early as a candidate, is running for Beaches—East York. Maltais explained that she had to act quickly to ramp up her outreach and fundraising efforts. “It can certainly be a disadvantage for people like me and for others who don’t have the affiliations and the funding to adapt,” said Maltais. The challenges of having to increase funding and outreach efforts mid-campaign was a primary reason the city and other affiliated parties fought the bill in the Superior Court of Ontario and won.
On September 10, Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba ruled against Bill 5, citing that changing ward boundaries and reducing the size of city council mid-election infringed on the rights of freedom of expression (Section 2b of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) of the candidates.
On the same day, Premier Doug Ford held a press conference at Queen’s Park announcing that he will use his power as premier to invoke Section 33 of the Charter, otherwise known as the notwithstanding clause, which overrides Justice Belobaba’s decision. The clause gives provincial powers or parliament the ability to override Section 2 or Section 7 to 15 of the charter for a five-year term.
This would be the first time in history that an Ontario premier has invoked the notwithstanding clause.
Pushing the agenda forward, the premier reintroduced the legislation as Bill 31, calling it the Efficient Local Government Act.
Several candidates for Beaches—East York expressed their concern with Premier Ford’s quick and unprecedented reaction to the superior court judgment.
For Adam Smith, a newer candidate for the area, Ford’s decision to invoke the clause was “anti-democratic” in his opinion. “Ford truly believes he is the king of Ontario,” he said in an interview with Beach Metro News last week.
Beaches—East York candidate Brad Bradford said that invoking such as powerful clause should be done with careful consideration. “We should have a very, very high bar for [the notwithstanding clause],” he said. “I don’t think it should be used for a pet project.” Bradford has been campaigning since June and opened his office at 155 Main Street last weekend.
While the candidates interviewed by Beach Metro News said that constituents reaction to the ward reduction was mixed, almost all Beaches—East York residents they spoke with were against the use of the notwithstanding clause.
“People feel like they haven’t been asked their opinion,” Beaches—East York candidate Josh Makuch.
Concern over Ford’s decision was echoed at city hall.
In a city council meeting on September 13, Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow put forth a motion to establish a city charter. The provisions set out in this charter would trump provincial legislation on municipal issues which would essentially create more autonomy for the City of Toronto.
On the same day, with a vote of 28-8, city council passed the motion to further the idea of a city charter and have it reviewed by the federal government.
With an election day looming as at press time, Beaches—East York candidates and constituents are still unsure of what final decisions will be made.
Join us for a Beaches—East York Councillor Candidates Town Hall meeting on September 24
The Balmy Beach Residents Association, Beach Metro News and Community Centre 55 are hosting a town hall meeting featuring candidates running for city council in the riding of Beaches—East York.
The meeting will take place on Monday, September 24, 2018 at Kingston Road United Church, 975 Kingston Road at 7:30 p.m.
All registered candidates running for councillor in the Beaches—East York area have been invited and will be given the opportunity to make a statement.
Written questions from the audience will be accepted. If you have a question for the candidates, you can submit it at the start of the evening, or you may send it in advance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a free event that is open to the general public.
With the possibility of new ward boundaries, and both of our area councillors retiring, this is your opportunity to hear the new voices that you can choose to be our voice at city hall.
As of press time, election day is scheduled for Monday, October 22, 2018.