Miller says he supports Ford’s move to invoke clause overriding judge’s decision regarding Toronto City Council

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Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller said he stands fully behind his leader’s reintroduction of legislation to decrease the number of Toronto councillors from 47 to 25 leading up to the October 22 municipal election.

“The Constitution makes it clear that provinces have the exclusive responsibility over municipalities. Virtually every legal expert including those who don’t support our government agree that this law was completely constitutional, and that’s the Bill 5 that was passed in the summer session that I’m speaking of, and within the legal power of the Province to enact,” said Miller.

On Wednesday the provincial government reintroduced the legislation on the heels of a court ruling which found it was unconstitutional because it was introduced in the middle of an election. Premier Doug Ford responded swiftly by invoking section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, commonly referred to as the notwithstanding clause. That clause has the power to override specific parts of the charter rights, referred to in the judge’s ruling.

“We believe that this judge’s decision is deeply concerning, wrong and unacceptable,” said Miller, adding that if his government had all the time in the world, it could wait to appeal the decision. “But the fact of the matter is there is a municipal election on October 22nd, so there’s not all the time in the world. So while we await that appeal, what we did yesterday is reintroduce the Better Local Government Act and with it invoke section 33 of the Constitution to overrule this wrong and unacceptable decision,” said Miller.

In terms of the timing, Miller said that obviously introducing such legislation in the middle of an election is not ideal, but based on his own personal experience as long-time member of the Opposition, elections could be called with very little warning. “I had no warning about knowing when the election would be called except knowing the end date by which it had to be called. The writ would be dropped and I’d have 30 days to Election Day. You know we’re still more than 30 days from October 22 at this point.”

He said the legislation, which has so far passed first reading, would realign the Toronto City Council boundaries with provincial and federal election boundaries. “And it is our belief that Toronto would function much more efficiently, we’ll save at least $25 million and we’ll be able to make progress on things like gridlock, which is awful in Toronto at least,” he said.

Asked about the region of Muskoka, which is represented by almost 100 councillors at both the upper and lower tiers including the District Chair, Miller responded by saying it would be wise to look at any municipal government over time. He said the same applies to the Parry Sound part of his riding. “I think it makes sense to review from time to time municipal government and municipal government is totally the responsibility of the Provincial government.”

Asked what he would say to those accusing Ford of being vindictive with Toronto residents for not electing him when he ran for Mayor, Miller shrugged it off as spin from the NDP.

“That’s certainly the spin that the NDP are putting on it. The motivation is to try to get Toronto functioning better, to save some money and to get Toronto functioning better so that they actually get some things done, because it’s been quite dysfunctional the last number of years.”

Miller said the notwithstanding clause speaks to the concept of parliamentary supremacy. “That’s what I believe section 33 was intended for. Section 33 is part of our Constitution, it doesn’t overrule the Constitution, we’re using a tool found in our Constitution for the reason it was put there,” said Miller who also quoted Jean Chretien when he was Minister of Justice in 1981 as stating that, “an override clause is to provide the flexibility that is required to ensure that legislators rather than judges have the final say on important matters of public policy.”

He said politicians are judged by the people. “If they don’t like what we’re doing, we’ll certainly pay the price for that… whereas a judge is appointed, but certainly I respect the judiciary.”

Miller said what happens next remains to be seen. He said the opposition will likely try to come up with tactics to try and slow down the passing of the Bill, “and I’m sure they’ll use all of them,” said Miller.

He said he thinks the legislation will pass and hopes the appeal to the judge’s decision occurs reasonably soon and that the Government is successful in its appeal, “because I think that will, in the public’s mind, make what we’re doing more acceptable.”

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24 Comments

  1. Norm Miller is clearly towing the party line using misinformation as his tool. Ford and his gang of despots should be ashamed of themselves and will pay the price at the next provincial election.

  2. Mr Miller,
    You just lost my vote by supporting Donald Ford! Bad decision, may haunt you for some time.
    Don’t count on me again.

  3. Patrick Flanagan on

    Few people, even in Toronto, care about the number of councillors there. In the grand scheme of things, it is a minor issue. But everyone should be concerned about a government that is willing to interfere with an election while a campaign is underway, trivialize our constitutional rights, and go down the Trumpian path of disparaging our judicial system and our judges.

    Some people said “I’m voting for Miller, not for Ford”. By showing that he is just a puppet, Mr. Miller has just demonstrated the folly of that position.

  4. Richard Corcelli on

    Those who follow politics might be interested to read lawyer Marie Heinen’s open letter to Premier Ford in the Globe and Mail this week. Ms Heinen, [who some may recognize as the lawyer for Jian Ghomeshi], gives firm direction to Mr. Ford in language that, even he, could understand.

    Marie Heinen starts her piece by stating, ‘…It’s time for a lesson on law and government 101. I doubt that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will take me up on the offer of a one-on-one lesson, and since it appears that none of those advising our Premier have thought to take on this task, here it goes.’

    Those few of us who spoil their day regularly by following municipal/provincial/federal politics will be startled by the firm rap on the knuckles which Ms Heinen gives the Premier on his knowledge of Canadian constitutional law.

    See https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-doug-ford-no-power-grab-is-worth-undermining-canadas-solid/

    Ms Heinen concludes by writing, ‘…Any time you want that one-on-one lesson, or a bit of a crash course on the Charter – including section 33, the notwithstanding clause – I’m here for you.’

  5. In retrospect, Mr. Chretien was dead wrong. Since the inception of The Charter, the judiciary (quite often, the Supremes), has been formulating the legislation which drives public policy.

    • Patrick Flanagan on

      Actually, the judiciary has been doing its job – ensuring that legislation complies with the constitution. This is the only way that renegade governments can be held in check. Its role will be more important than ever in the next few years. Unfortunately, the notwithstanding clause gives a loophole that allows governments to run roughshod over our rights, and Ford has announced his intention to do just that.

  6. Unsurprising, but disappointing that Mr. Miller would support Mr. Ford on his foolish use of the notwithstanding clause. It is blatantly obvious that this is a personal vendetta of Mr. Ford’s against Toronto City Council. Plain and simple – don’t change the rules in the middle of an election. And I don’t appreciate the use of my provincial tax dollars by Mr. Ford on this kind of ego-driven legal endeavour. You are not saving lives here nor are you going to save $25 million. Mr. Ford you are representing all of the citizens of the province – you didn’t get 100% of the vote as you may recall or would you like to challenge that too?

  7. Way to go MR Ford .. finally someone who cares about expenses and downsizing big government! When you consider other areas in North America about the same size as Ont and bigger … the FACTS show ONT has a lot more politicians than are required .. time for change and I hope he keeps up his business approach to budgets, finances and his sense of political responsibility to the majority mandate his party was given be the democratic process. Liberals and socialist will HATE anything and everything he does… as you can see via the posting in this blog. Let’s give him 14 years as the previous LIBERAL government was given and see where the province is in things that matter to all citizens! Now .. if only we could have some sanity applied to number of politicians in Muskoka and CUT the over government and cost to Muskoka taxpayers!

    • Gary L Peterson on

      Doug Ford destroyed his father’s business. He is now and always has been an incompetent narcissist. We can only hope responsible people are able to protect all of the province from him.

  8. To quote this morning’s Globe and Mail, “Doug Ford says Toronto council is disfunctional. Ironically, disfunction seems to follow a certain individual wherever he goes and that individual is none other than Doug Ford himself.”

    • Hugh Holland:
      I was having those same thoughts this morning…what did Rob and Doug Ford ever do on Toronto Council to make it less dysfunctional? Disappointed in the PC’s in following the herd mentality even with a so called Free Vote. Populism seems alive and well in Queen’s Park.

  9. “Miller said he stands fully behind his leader’s reintroduction of legislation”, but he does he stand behind it personally? We don’t learn what the person actually thinks, only what the line from the “leader” is.

    Miller: “it would be wise to look at any municipal government over time… to review from time to time municipal government”. Hear, hear. Agreed all around. So why the TO (and district chair) rush? If we had a vote for district chair here, we could have a say in who might move this kind of review/reduction forward. Will we end up with no movement from an appointed (oh, no, not appointed) chair; delaying reform?

    “Asked what he would say to those accusing Ford of being vindictive with Toronto residents for not electing him when he ran for Mayor, Miller shrugged it off”. Not much shrugging elsewhere.

  10. Why is it, that when a Conservative Government makes a move to save 25 million dollars, (plus or minus for those who don’t agree on that figure) and make the Toronto Council more workable in the process, everyone jumps all over them ?

    I support Premier Doug Ford because there was a shortage of time to get the change done. I like that. If it isn’t done, Toronto gets another dysfunctional Government until the next Municipal election.
    Funny, there wasn’t as much outcry when the Liberals spent 1.2 Billion dollars for political gain?

    • The $25 million savings is a myth. No councillor can effectively communicate with 100,000 citizens, so fewer councillors just means higher paid councillors who have more paid staff.

    • he could save us billions if he got rid of the Nuclear subsidies and welfare, a billion is alot more than 25 million and it is something that does not affect the constituents. Reality is he is doing this as a personal vendetta and that, quite frankly, should scare all of us.

  11. I respect Hugh H. enough not to argue this point, so if he says it’s a myth then I guess it is. But; wouldn’t staffers earn considerably less than a Councillor? Doesn’t more staff at a lesser wage translate to lower unemployment at reasonable cost? Maybe, according to what I’ve heard other big cities have councils that are half the size. Staffers that are out of a job when council is cut would be looking for a job. Just sayin’.

    P.S. – I belonged to the Jaycees down Toronto way, and worked closely with the Toronto Jr. Board. The workings of City Hall are just the same as it was ‘way back then. Biggest item: No one will ever, ever, vote to eliminate his own job.

  12. To all who are condemning Premier Ford; – in the words of that Liberal icon who was one of a kind: I say ‘Fuddle Duddle’! You Liberals should know that one!

    Side note to Brian: Rob Ford was the victim of a well known disease, don’t condemn a man until you know what he is going through.

    Premier Ford is guilty only by association with his brother.

    • Unless Torontoians deserve a different type of democracy, using Miller’s math all of Muskokas get 1 District Chair; 4 mayors and 1 councillor……yes indeed that is democracy in action. The net result would be that unelected public servants effectively have to run the Muskokas. Miller knows this but he doesn’t work for his constituents, he works for Doug Ford, now. Show some guts Miller vote no to this injustice and reintroduce after the election (which would them make it constitutional) and maybe after some consultation.

  13. In the last two months since Doug ford has been in office all he has done is make people angry at him , hes done alot of stupid things . He canceled green programs for which he is getting sued by Green Peace , he told the people of Bala he would stop that project there for sure and isnt going to . Now hes doing this , isnt it odd he isnt changing all the rules for all the towns and cities just Toronto. Im glad to say i didnt vote for the man and i think everyone that did should feel kinda foolish now. Just my opinion.

  14. Like killing a Mosquito with a Shotgun…..Bad decision ! Yes there are Too many politicians and Dougie is one of them !

  15. There now! Everybody okay? The sun came up, at least I think it did somewhere above the clouds.
    Since when is it in the middle of an election campaign to still see more than 30 days left on the calendar before election day?
    Lesson in Politics 101, don’t get your signs printed until 30 days before.
    I can’t envision all this condemnation of a fellow who is setting out to do exactly what he said he was going to do. Being a Toronto boy originally, (been up here since ’65) I have many friends – (what’s left of them) from the city and we follow their Council ‘s meetings. They were ‘way too unwieldy, from what I’ve heard. People say Premier Ford was on a vendetta, wouldn’t it be awful if the ones he disliked were among the 50% that’s elected and the good guys got booted? Big Oops.
    But I’m sure the naysayers and the handwringers will find some other reason to flog our new Premier.

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