Ford says demand exists for smaller Ottawa council

As Ontario Premier Doug Ford gets set to recall the legislature in order to push his Better Local Government Act through, using the notwithstanding clause, there is new speculation about similar legislation in other cities.

The court ruling Monday that struck down Ford’s attempt to cut Toronto city council to 25 seats from 47 cited the Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 2(b), saying passing the bill during an election infringes on candidates’ and voters’ freedom of expression.

But the judge said similar legislation could still be passed by the Province, so long as it’s constitutional.

While Ford and some local MPPs have previously said there is no plan to reduce the size of Ottawa’s city council, that doesn’t mean there is no demand for it.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Beyond the News with Brian Lilley Monday evening, Ford said he gets a lot of calls from Ottawa on that very subject.

“Second to Toronto, the number one amount of calls–because I give my cell number to absolutely everyone–is from the Ottawa and Ottawa region talking about that but, for now, we’re going to leave well enough alone,” Ford said.

He made similar comments to Toronto’s Global News Radio 640.

There are 23 council wards in Ottawa and still will be on October 22, when the city votes. If the Province were to redraw ward boundaries along federal and provincial riding lines in the future–like they’re trying to do in Toronto–Ottawa City Hall would have just eight councillors plus the mayor.

Ford had said in the past that Ottawa and Toronto city councils are not comparable, calling the comparison one of apples to oranges. He repeated that he has no plans for immediate council cuts in Ottawa at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference earlier this year.

“We do not, I repeat, we do not have plans for similar legislation in our near future,” he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by Nepean MPP and social services minister Lisa MacLeod on Twitter Tuesday morning.

The Premier was clear in his AMO speech that he has no intention to reduce the size of council in Ottawa.

— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) September 11, 2018

Speaking at the Mayor's Breakfast Tuesday morning, MacLeod told reporters there's no "for now" when it comes to a possible cut to Ottawa's city council chambers.

"People may be calling," she said. "I know, having spoken with the premier's office last night, there's zero intention to reduce the size of city council here."

Ford told Beyond the News that, for the time being, he has other issues to tackle.

“We’re gonna turn this province around,” Ford said. “Right now, as you’re going to hear over the next few weeks, we’re in a financial disaster the previous government left us in. The people of Ontario are going to hear the results of the inquiry and the line-item-by-line-item audit we’re doing and just fasten your seatbelts because it’s going to be shocking.”

The audit, which is being conducted by EY Canada, is set to deliver its report on September 30.

The independent commission, which was headed by former B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell, delivered its report to the Province August 30. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli says the government will “review their report to ensure the implications of its recommendations are considered in full, and release the report in its entirety to the public as promised in the coming weeks.”