Globe editorial: Doug Ford shoots through the heart of democracy | Rare Techy
When Doug Ford became Premier of Ontario in 2018, he told voters that his Progressive Conservative government would be “Ontario’s first government for the people.”
Most people saw this casual statement as garden-variety political gas; a nonsensical slogan from an inexperienced populist who had dragged his party’s leadership at the last minute. What no one could have foreseen at the time was how empty it would turn out to be.
Friends, Mr. Ford has invited you along. Last week, his recently re-elected government introduced a bill that, if passed, would sacrifice a fundamental principle of democracy – majority rule – on the altar of his political agenda.
Under the so-called Better Municipal Government Act, the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa can adopt or amend bylaws with just a one-third vote in their councils.
The only caveat is that these statutes must be linked in an as-yet-undefined way to priorities that the Ford government will name later, but which “could include building 1.5 million new homes over 10 years to address the housing supply crisis and construction. and maintenance of infrastructure such as transit and highways to support the development of new and existing housing.
This could be wrong. Let’s start with the fact that it is completely unnecessary.
Municipalities are creatures of provincial government, a reality that Mr. Ford delighted in shoving in the faces of Torontonians when he arbitrarily halved the size of city council in the middle of the 2018 municipal elections.
He did so again this year when his government passed the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act. Among other things, the act gives the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa the power to veto bylaws and override council decisions, again in the name of provincial priorities. Councilors could have overridden the mayor’s veto with a two-thirds majority. Now even that modest check on mayors’ new powers is gone.
But if Mr. Ford wanted to or could, his government could impose all zoning, transit, road and housing laws on every municipality in the province.
In fact, the More Homes Built Faster Act, once passed, will do some of that. The bill takes small steps to accelerate development and increase the density of cities and suburbs. But it doesn’t do the hard work of forcing higher density on cities like Toronto by opening up areas meant for single-family homes to a wider range of housing.
That would create political challenges, so instead of using the popular franchise that Mr. Ford earned by winning a majority of seats in the Ontario legislature, he plans to subvert the democratic principle that put him in power and leave a minority in Toronto and Ottawa. the Soviets comply with his demands.
It’s almost impossible to believe this is happening in Canada.
The idea that elected politicians represent the electorate by enacting laws that are passed by majority vote, whether in city councils, provincial legislatures or the Ottawa Parliament, is the heart of democracy.
If legislative minorities can now pass laws that suit the political agenda of the moment, then democracy has been shot through the heart. Why even elect a Toronto council if the Premier is going to turn it into a grumpy rubber stamp operation in a nice building?
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe says he will not use the powers Mr. Ford wants to give him. This is the correct answer. But in Toronto, Mayor John Tory has not only said he plans to use them, but admits he has proposed minority rule.
Mr Tory said last week he would use his new anti-democratic superpowers “within limits” and that voters should trust him.
But it is impossible to trust an elected official who would even entertain the distortion of democracy that Ford’s administration is proposing. Mr. Tory was elected to protect the interests of the people of Toronto. Instead, he sells them out as soon as possible.
Mr Ford and Mr Tory are not working for the people. They work against them by diminishing the system that gives them a voice and diminishing their right to effective representation.