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34 J.L. & Soc. Pol'y 1 (2021)

handle is hein.journals/jlsp34 and id is 1 raw text is: The Better Local Government Act versus Municipal Democracy
SIMON ARCHER & ERIN SOBAT*
IN AN ERA MARKED BY THE RISE of illiberal democracies, the rule of law we thought we knew
is being tested. Courts have been asked to engage with the expanded and extraordinary use of
executive and parliamentary powers everywhere-most recently in the United Kingdom (on the
use of the executive's prerogative powers to call elections against the will of Parliament) and the
United States (on the legality of executive orders by the President). Locally it has taken the form
of interference by the provincial government of Ontario in municipal elections, including the threat
of invoking the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to shield such
interference from effective constitutional oversight.
This special volume of the Journal of Law and Social Policy examines and contextualizes
these acts of interference. On 27 July 2018, the Honourable Doug Ford, newly elected Progressive
Conservative Premier of Ontario, announced that his government would introduce legislation to
reduce the size of Toronto City Council from forty-seven to twenty-five ward seats. This, despite
the fact that the 2018 municipal election period had already begun on 1 May 2018 and was well
underway; that voting day was scheduled for 22 October 2018; and that the City had recently
undertaken an extensive, four-year public consultation on ward boundaries, which resulted in City
Council increasing the number of wards from forty-four to forty-seven. Ignoring the requirements
of the City of Toronto Act, 2006,1 the government had not previously consulted the City, provided
notice about this drastic change, or even campaigned on the issue before being elected the month
before.
It is helpful to note that the City and Province (under the former provincial government)
had previously worked out a compromise for determining the structure and process of local
government. This negotiation of jurisdiction was enacted in the City of Toronto Act, 2006: there
would be a lengthy process to determine ward boundaries (taking into account effective
representation principles developed for the purpose of section 3 democratic rights under the
Charter) and a requirement that both the City and Province consult on any changes. The ward
boundary review process began in 2013 and concluded in 2017, following several rounds of
community consultations, many committee and Council meetings, and significant changes to the
city's governance model.2 The City of Toronto's lengthy and detailed ward boundary review
process was upheld on review by the Ontario Municipal Board.3 Yet the City's long-laboured
decision was over-ridden by a former City councillor (now Premier) who apparently believed from
the start of the City's review that the ward boundaries should simply match federal and provincial
electoral boundaries.
On 30 July 2018, the provincial government introduced Bill 5, the Better Local
Government Act, 2018 (Bill 5 or the Act), for first reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.4
The Bill would amend the City of Toronto Act, 2006 (Schedule 1), the Municipal Act, 2001
* Simon Archer is a Partner at Goldblatt Partners LLP in Toronto. Erin Sobat is a third year JD student at Osgoode
Hall Law School. The authors would like to thank all the journal editors for their assistance with the special volume
and this introduction.
1 SO 2006, c 11, Sched A [COTA].
2 Toronto Ward Boundary Review, online: <drawthelines.ca> [perma.cc/6MUC-JAF6].
' Di Ciano v Toronto (City), 2017 CanLII 85757 (ON LPAT).
a Better Local Government Act, 2018, SO 2018, c 11 [Bill 5].

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