It’s good to see that here in the centre of our Confederation, the issue of our time is supplying the country with such explosive debate. The question of how many people should sit on Toronto’s city council has long lain dormant, even unacknowledged, as a — or even the — pivot of Canada’s constitutional health. But in the past week or so, Premier Doug Ford’s idea, so to speak, of trimming the number of simians approaching the typewriter has engaged more press attention than the NAFTA talks and Trans Mountain combined. Who knew that cutting the number of councillors that get to decide which downtown Toronto street next gets a bike path and a licence to open a hen farm could so threaten the Confederation?
Before approaching that aftermath of invoking the notwithstanding clause, it will be useful to address in isolation the actual basic question that precipitated the furor. Reducing the number of Toronto councillors from 47 to 25: Will this improve Toronto’s city council? That’s open to debate.
The age of miracles may be in its last few dwindling minutes, but a tick-tock or two of its unaccountable power remains. Even an institution seemingly impervious to enhancement may, under new circumstances and reduced membership, stagger into unwonted competence. It is just possible that things may get better.
Council chambers at city hall in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday September 13, 2018.
Now consider the contrary: could this change, could any change, make it worse? More numbing, more tiresome, more dawdling, more fractious, more boring?
Those martyrs who have witnessed Toronto city council in full deliberation, and survived with reason intact, will adamantly testify that such is utterly beyond the powers of human contemplation. Of the downward slope, Toronto city council has exhausted the arc; the graph is closed, the limit reached. Therefore, at worst, Premier Ford’s planned experiment at least allows for hope, and since hope — however fragile, even as a reed on the bank to the gurgling swimmer caught in the undertow — is generally accepted as a good thing, all right minds must side with the premier. To cite Leonard Cohen once again in this space, Mr. Ford’s law is, at least a crack that lets the light get in.
Now to the troublous awakening of the notwithstanding clause (NWC). To his opponents, invoking the NWC is the most parlous moment in our history since the Plains of Abraham. By this enormity Ford has opened the gates of constitutional hell, splintered the rule of law, opened the floodgates to dread populism and dictatorship, and — blasphemy itself — shattered the veritable Mosaic tablets of Canadian citizenship (brought down in the ancient days of 1982), the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Not that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
Was gathered …
It is the fall of man all over again. If Doug Ford is not the snake himself, he has introduced the snake into Eden garden.
Well, if invoking the NWC in the cause of changing the numbers of …read more