'He's behaving like a dictator': Critics blast Ford's political shakeup
Published Friday, July 27, 2018 8:34PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 27, 2018 10:29PM EDT
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath compared Ontario Premier Doug Ford to a “dictator” after he announced Friday plans to redraw ward boundaries, effectively slashing the size of city council and cancelling a number of regional elections.
“Mr. Ford seems to believe that he is the king of Ontario. He’s behaving like a dictator,” said Horwath, the province’s opposition leader. “For the Premier to cancel elections where his political rivals or enemies of the past are running is deeply, deeply chilling. It is an assault on democracy.”
Ford revealed Friday that he would introduce legislation to cut the number of city councillors in Toronto almost by half, which would dramatically alter the ward boundaries to match federal and provincial ridings.
The move also radically changes Toronto’s political landscape before the Oct. 22 municipal election.
Ford’s proposal, if passed by the legislature, would cancel regional chair elections in Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka regions.
Ford called Toronto city hall “the most dysfunctional political arena in the country.”
“We have 44 people trying to make a decision that can’t make a decision,” he said during a press conference announcing the Better Local Government Act.
Political analyst and columnist Jim Warren called Ford’s announcement the move of a “political assassin” done “in the stealth of dark.”
“It’s payback time to all these city councillors,” said Warren. “It was payback time for people who really thumbed their nose at his brother when he was mayor and when (Doug) was a city councillor.”
Horwath wasn’t the only politician to speak out against the surprise move. Former Toronto city councillor and mayoral candidate Olivia Chow called the premier “King Ford, or Emperor Ford for that matter.”
“It’s really not fair for the city of Toronto,” she told CTV News Channel, noting that if the proposed changes go through, Toronto’s councillors would each represent more than 100,000 people.
“That’s a lot of people. If you’re thinking of all across Canada, most municipal councillors would be representing a few thousand people, at most over 10,000. Not 100,000.”
Former Toronto mayor David Miller spoke about what he characterized as “contempt” for city dwellers.
“I don’t know if Mr. Ford is trapped by his own ideology or it’s some personal motivation, but this is a really egregious decision done in the worst possible way,” he said.
“It indicates a contempt for the people of Toronto and a contempt for local government.”
John Campbell, councillor for Etobicoke Centre, said he was “disappointed.”
“I’m a little bit stunned by the way that this happened,” he said. “I think ultimately it’s going to lead to poorer governance and oversight of our bureaucracy.”
A few hundred people gathered in the early evening outside city hall during a rally where Horwath continued her criticism of the decision.
“Earth to Mr. Ford. You’re doing the wrong thing here. This is not acceptable,” she said. “New Democrats will be standing up day in and day out to try and push back against this undemocratic Premier and his desire to shut down democracy in the city of Toronto.”
Also at the Nathan Philips Square rally, Liberal MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood Mitzie Hunter proclaimed “this is our city.”
“The type of city we have is shaped by the will of the people, not by one person,” she said.
But another group of councillors came out in support of the premier, including Jim Karygiannis, councillor for Scarborough-Agincourt.
“I’m ecstatic that this is happening,” he said. “It’s about time this happened. The fewer politicians we have the better it is.”
Etobicoke Lakeshore councillor Justin Di Ciano echoed that sentiment.
“It’s going to be better decision making at city hall and I think that benefits Torontonians as a whole,” he said.
Though Ford’s major political shakeup has been divisive, provincial governments have the constitutional right to shape municipalities, municipal law expert John Mascarin said.
“Constitutionally, the province, the provincial government has the authority to come in and create a municipality, change a municipality, and get rid of a municipality,” he said.