Bill 5 Ontario

Judge rules against Doug Ford's decision to cut Toronto City Council in half

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's decision to slash Toronto city council in half has been rejected — by the city, by the people, and now by the law.

Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba announced early Monday morning that Toronto's legal challenge against the new provincial government's council-reducing legislation, Bill 5, was valid. 

"The matter before me is unprecedented," reads Belobaba's 21-page ruling in favour of Toronto. "The provincial legislature enacted Bill 5, radically redrawing the City of Toronto's electoral districts, in the middle of the City's election."

"The Province has clearly crossed the line." 

Called the Better Local Government Act, the legislation was passed on August 14 at Queen's Park in the middle of a municipal election campaign, just over two months after Ford was first elected premier.

The move effectively reduced the number of seats on Toronto's city council from 47 to 25. It also scrapped a comprehensive new ward boundaries map that took four years for to review and approve.

When Ford's plan was announced in late July, Mayor John Tory said that it was "not right," "not fair," and that it was "disrespectful of the people." Tory accused the premier of "meddling" in Toronto's democratic process and vowed to fight back against the cut. 

Lawyers for the city argued during a seven-hour-long hearing on August 31 that the provincial government had violated Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms by interfering with an ongoing election.

Belobaba, in his ruling, agreed.

"This mid-stream legislative intervention not only interfered with the candidates' freedom of expression, it undermined an otherwise fair and suitable election process," the ruling reads. "Electoral fairness is a fundamental value of democracy."

The judge did acknowledge earlier in the process that whatever he decided would likely be appealed, however, so don't go celebrating the power of democracy too hard just yet. 

Still, according to the ruling, "as things now stand — and until a constitutionally valid provincial law says otherwise — the City has 47 wards."

Lead photo by

Terry Alexander


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