-By Robert Lee – Guest Contributor to DeanBlundell.com You can find Rob Lee on Twitter @downtownrob88
Hand it, begrudgingly, to the ego-tripping Muskoka Misanthrope: the Doug Dynasty wields power over 15 million Ontarians with unprecedented efficiency. Indulging in an ideological experiment favouring a bizarre cross-section of society…
- Licensed car owners
- Food and drug retailers
- Builders and tradesmen
- Employers enrolled in the WSIB
- Police officers and firefighters
- Private medical/schools/daycares
…King Doug defiantly scorns the many millions refusing to recognize his Ford Nation tagline, yet succeeds at a remarkable rate.
Touching the third rail of the Charter, the infamous s. 33 notwithstanding clause (NWS), Ford changed Toronto’s ward map in the middle of the 2018 municipal elections, gagged third-party involvement in the June 2022 provincial vote and, in his latest vendetta, has shut down collective bargaining for a mere 55,000 union members.
For Doug Ford, pulling the trigger on the NWS to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code is as easy as falling off his snowmobile.
But Doug is on thin ice here. The NWS wasn’t intended to thwart the legitimate aspirations of a dispossessed or marginalized group. It isn’t what Pierre Trudeau, the premiers and Parliament had had in mind when the PM began pressing for patriation of the then-BNA Act way back in 1971, culminating in the 1982 Constitution Act. It was anticipated that the resort to section 33 would enable legislatures to overcome unacceptable judicial determinations (not inconvenient collective bargaining) where there was popular support for doing so.
Ford has perverted this understanding unilaterally, but Ontarians and indeed Canadians are finding out that, when you scrape the bottom of the Ford barrel, there’s a drainpipe to a whole other Ford barrel below that.
Consider the history of this bloody-minded Constitution buster:
In June 2021, an Ontario Superior Court Justice found four sections of Ford’s overreaching Bill 254, the Protecting Ontario Elections Act, breached section 2 of the Charter based on its stifling of the freedom of expression of interest groups.
In response to the Superior Court rebuke, as usual embracing audacity over legality, Ford invoked the override.
Bully Boy reintroduced the offending sections of the act using the NWS clause, (overriding the Superior Court ruling) and passed the amendments following a 63 to 47 late-night vote. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the gag law would aid the incumbent government’s re-election bid by limiting political voices during a campaign.
Go back to August 2018 for his first attack using the override, a vindictive salvo against former Toronto city council colleagues, (no other city was targeted), two months after his election.
Ford’s Bill 5 slashed Toronto wards almost in half, from 47 to 25, in August 2018, a shocking two months before the October 2018 balloting. Ford also cancelled planned regional chair elections in Peel and York, blocking the ambitions of his political foes, Brampton mayor Patrick Brown and then-Liberal leader Steven Del Duca.
The City of Toronto sued, challenging the wards hatchet job, and the courts hurriedly ruled, Sept 10, that Ford’s gerrymandering of political districts was undemocratic. A petulant Ford, warming to a legal debate but clearly unprepared for it, returned serve by bizarrely accusing the Court itself of being undemocratic (for upholding the 1982 Constitution Act), and followed up by threatening to invoke his handy equalizer, the notwithstanding clause.
Sept 18, 2018, days after learning of the Superior Court loss, Ford complained to reporters that a “democratically elected government” is being “shut down by the courts” – his fascist underpinnings revealed. He also falsely accused the judge of being a crony appointed by former Ontario Premier McGuinty, even though the judge was not appointed by McGuinty, but by a federal government then led (in 2005) by Stephen Harper.
As noted above, Ford gets a wide berth in polite society: Before he could exploit the NWS, a narrow 5-4 Supreme Court decision in October 2021 found Ford had the right to make the Toronto wards intervention. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Rosalie Abella said Ford’s Orwellian-named Better Local Government Act was unconstitutional.
The irony in all this is radical RW populists like Doug Ford claim to speak on behalf of ordinary people, fighting an elite establishment which stops them from fulfilling their political dreams – while taking on education staff earning less than $40,000 a year.
Clearly, the Charter’s signers did not expect the NWS clause to become a gun pointed in the direction of the fundamental freedoms of people exercising their rights. They created a human chain along Yonge Street in support of Iranian women fighting religious persecution. Ontario needs a human chain around the Pink Palace and Doug Ford’s Etobicoke North constituency office.
And maybe his Muskoka Man Cave, for good measure.