Wednesday at 2.30pm
This morning’s Toronto Star tells me the NDP will delay Ford’s plan to cut Toronto city council and axe the elections for Regional Chairs by using “legislative procedural tactics”.
However, the excellent Queen’s Park reporter, Robert Benzie, who originally broke the story, does not tell us what impact this procedural fancy-dancing will have beyond delaying the passage of the Bill by two days.
Tomorrow afternoon (2 August) the Leader of the Opposition will have 12 minutes to speak to the following Private Members’ Motion
Ms. Horwath — That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should not meddle in municipal or regional elections and should withdraw Bill 5 as the government did not campaign on interfering in elections in Toronto, Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara and changing the rules of a democratic election in the middle of a campaign period is undemocratic, un-Ontarian, and un-Canadian; and fails to reflect widely held beliefs that decisions about our democracy should engage citizens so they have their say about any changes to the electoral processes.
After a mini-debate she will have a further two minutes to sum up. Rather than bellowing at the Government benches, complaining yet again about Ford’s bullying, I hope she will try to find out how the Government intends to proceed. I take it as a given Ford is not going to pull the Bill just because she asks nicely.
The Government is up against the clock. The elections are on 22 October and we are already into August and MPPs haven’t had a summer break. It will be a huge rush to get the Bill enacted without in some way truncating the legislative process.
Which brings me to the question: Which procedural devices are going to be used to get the Bill through in double quick time and what can be done to frustrate this?
What about the Bill’s Committee Stage? How many sessions will there be? Presumably Toronto City Council will be invited to give evidence. What about the candidates for the Regional Chair elections in York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka? Will they be recompensed for the sums they have already spent on their campaigns?
The Better Local Government Act allows for retroactivity. The nomination day as set out in Section 31 of the Municipal Elections Act 1996 (the fourth Friday of July in the year of the election) “is deemed not to have occurred”.
And the Bill allows the Minister to make Regulations “varying the operation of any provision of this Act”.
I can already see the Minister walking behind the cart horse cleaning up the mess of unforeseen and unintended consequences.
It seems to me it will be quite impossible for the Government to get this Bill through in time if it goes to a Standing Committee for scrutiny in the usual way.
More likely, after the Bill gets its Second Reading, it will go straight to a Committee of the Whole House (that is, the entire legislature sitting as a committee) which will consider amendments. I can already hear the yelling and ya-booing and accusations of dirty tricks.
As I tap this out, we neither know the timetable nor the plan to get this hugely contentious Bill onto the Statute Book.
For the moment, I am in the dark.