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Ontario legislation undermines the majority vote on municipal councils

Ron Walter looks at a new Act passed by the Ontario government
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Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

Many Canadians thought the use of the Emergencies Act by the federal government was an abuse of the democratic right to protest.

Now another Act passed by the Ontario government threatens the very foundations of our democratic system.

Premier Doug Ford’s government passed a bill allowing municipal councils to pass local legislation without a majority approving the matter.

Councils in Ontario can approve actions with only one-third approval. Two-thirds of council can vote no and still see the action pass if the mayor wants that action to proceed.

This provincial Act is completely contrary to the centuries old practice where the 50 per cent plus one is needed to approve legislation or elections.

Cynics will say what’s next? A law allowing one-third of the voters to elect a government?

Mayor John Tory of Toronto, has agreed to adopt the new one-third carries the day bill, but promises to use it sparingly.

The mayor of Ottawa has said thanks but no thanks.

Bewilderment has accompanied this outrageous undemocratic law. Apparently the law is aimed at conflicts that allow councils to stop or delay projects by developers to building new housing. 

The objections to new development zoning range from oversized buildings for the neighbourhood, destruction of neighbourhoods, traffic issues and builders taking park space for developments.

Ford has already approved legislation to allow developers to build on green spaces set aside for parks. And he reduced the number of councillors in Toronto try and get his way with that city.

The Ontario premier is safe in taking these dictatorial actions. The Opposition vote is split, leaving Ford in the position of keeping power for the long term.

Fragmented or weak opposition allows governments to abuse power and follow ideological or corrupt paths instead of abiding by the wishes of a majority of voters.

Accusations have been levelled that some developers knew this law would be approved and acquired land on the cheap to develop later. 

If continued this kind of legislation violating our rights will accelerate the trend to fewer people voting.        

Look for a court challenge of the law.

Ron Walter can be reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 



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