Chaos erupts in Toronto during midnight debate on council cuts
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative MPPs are literally burning the midnight oil in an attempt to pass Bill 31 ahead of Toronto's upcoming municipal election — and so are the hordes of citizens trying to stop them.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario held a rare midnight sitting thios morning at 12:01 a.m. to try and get through a second-reading debate of Ford's controversial 'Efficient Local Government Act.'
If passed, this bill would reduce the number of seats on Toronto city council from 47 to 25, in the middle of an election period, without any sort of warning or consultation from the province.
Huge line to get into Queen's Park for the midnight second reading of #Bill31, the revamp of #Bill5 that includes the #NotWithStandingClause, that allows the government to override a judges decision. #ONpoli, follow @robertbenzie for updates! pic.twitter.com/q627IBuhlw— Steve Russell (@RussellPhotos) September 17, 2018
An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled last Monday that an earlier version of the bill was unconstitutional, prompting Ford to invoke the Canadian Charter's controversial "notwithstanding clause" for the first time in Ontario history.
peeps are outchere at queens park fighting against interference in toronto's election pic.twitter.com/0bLh89z8V7— here for dafonte (@DesmondCole) September 17, 2018
Ford's use of the rare clause, also called Section 33, has been widely decried by human rights organizations, Toronto residents, and political opponents alike who say the premier is acting like a dictator.
The public gallery at Queen's Park is cleared after outbursts from members of the public towards the government side of the house during the second reading of #Bill31, a bill close to #Bill5 that includes the #NotwithstandingClause. #ONpoli pic.twitter.com/ITiaZtICbm— Steve Russell (@RussellPhotos) September 17, 2018
Last night's marathon meeting proved successful for the PC party, in that they got through the second reading of Bill 31 after the mandatory six-and-a-half hours of debate.
In what's becoming somewhat of a regular occurrence, protesters arrived en masse to Queen's Park late Sunday night to try and score a seat inside the legislature for the debate.
Protesters chant "Let us in" as people that were in the public gallery leave after the gallery was cleared during the second reading of #Bill31, a slightly different version of #Bill5 that includes the #NotwithstandingClause. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/CP7kMRkHz9— Steve Russell (@RussellPhotos) September 17, 2018
Most of those who did were soon kicked out of the building for being disruptive.
Now there is a profane chant requesting the premier to do something anatomically impossible. #onpoli— Robert Benzie (@robertbenzie) September 17, 2018
Many argued that they should be let back inside.
It’s astounding what is happening here. People demanding to be let in to the galleries to watch this travesty. It feels like the beginning of significant resistance. pic.twitter.com/9yhLVlAMYi— Janet Davis (@Janet_Davis) September 17, 2018
They weren't, but the protests continued outdoors with people chanting and banging their feet against the barriers next to the walls of Ontario's Legislative Assembly until nearly sunrise.
Like the NDP party, protesters argued that the bill should be thrown out.
Fantastic & fearless @JILLSLASTWORD Official Opposition MPP for St.Paul's thanks everyone who is here, & has been organizing. She & the entire @OntarioNDP team have our back -- they are not letting up the fight! #onpoli #topoli #NotwithstandingClause #bill5 #bill31 #ourhouse pic.twitter.com/azbg6jKU4m— ausma malik (@ausmalik) September 17, 2018
The New Democrats did try to delay the bill's passing again on Monday morning by moving to adjourn the debate, but lost in a vote of 67-24.
Arrived at #queenspark as a crowd against #Bill31 continues to chant outside. Police block the entrance. They applaud even louder every few minutes when someone inside acknowledges them through an upper window. pic.twitter.com/IkhOmv0yVA— Tammie Sutherland (@citytammie) September 17, 2018
The Toronto Star reports that Progressive Conservatives are now set to introduce a "time-allocation motion," meaning that the bill could pass its second and third reading, as well as get royal assent, by this Thursday.
This morning I stood with my colleague, Minister @SteveClarkPC, to debate the Efficient Local Government Act at second reading. Our government is taking action to deliver on our commitment of smaller, more effective government that works for the people. #onpoli #forthepeople pic.twitter.com/wUdIoMIbJP— Caroline Mulroney (@C_Mulroney) September 17, 2018
Whether or not that's fast enough for Toronto election officials remains to be seen.
City Clerk Ulli Watkiss said on Thursday that the she is concerned about her ability to run a fair election on October 22 at this point, given the confusion surrounding Toronto's ward boundaries.
"We have hit a tipping point," she said to councillors, noting that whether Toronto has 47 or 25 seats to vote for, "both election scenarios are becoming virtually impossible for us to carry out."
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