Premier Doug Ford’s abrupt move to reduce the number of council seats from 47 to 25 at this late stage in our election period is literally gerrymandering, and calls into question our city’s capacity for self-determination.
Mayor John Tory, when pressed on whether he knew beforehand that this was coming, admitted that he had discussed the plan with Ford two weeks prior, but described it as a brief “musing.” Tory claimed that after he pointed out the obvious impracticality of doing this less than 12 weeks before election day, Ford quickly dropped it and moved on to other matters.
Ford however, responded that he (along with his staff) held “numerous” consultations with Tory on the subject in the few weeks since he won the Premiership.
Many of us feel that Ford’s unilateral move makes the upcoming vote illegitimate. And given the timing of the announcement — mere hours before the deadline to enter the mayor’s race — some also suspect that Tory withheld the plan to gain personal advantage. Had we all heard about it when Tory did, anyone still considering a mayoral run would have had at least two weeks to prepare an alternative proposal for Toronto’s countermove.
Even if you think that drastically cutting the size of city council is a good idea, it is a decision that we as Torontonians should get to make. To those in the suburbs who will be overrepresented under the new scheme, it behooves you to imagine a future Premier redrawing the ward lines last-minute to ensure the downtown core’s disproportional dominance at city hall.
Do we really want to be the whipping boy of a province that can easily and legally overrule us on issues like: accommodation of asylum seekers; crime prevention; police accountability; physical health education; climate change mitigation; and now, the very structure of our democratic process?
Fighting a losing battle in the courts would be weak. Sternly asking Premier Ford to gift us a binding referendum is downright pathetic.
Having a serious look at secession is strong and more appropriate.