(Photo courtesy of Ontario PC Party via Twitter.com)
Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday night that his government will dramatically cut the number of city council seats from 47 to 25. This announcement came just hours before Friday’s deadline for candidate registration for Toronto’s municipal election.
Mayor John Tory says he heard that news when it was publicly reported, just as the rest of Torontonians did.
Friday morning, the mayor held a news conference to respond to the premier.
“It is my job to stand up for the people of Toronto. All of the people of Toronto whether they voted for me or not,” says Tory, during his live-televised news conference.
“And I firmly believe that one of my fundamental responsibilities is to protect the democracy which binds our society together. The bedrock of that democracy is fair process — that the people always have an opportunity to be heard by their government.”
“This is a gigantic decision about the future of Toronto.”
Mayor Tory says he then spoke to Premier Ford Thursday night and told him “in no uncertain terms” that the process around this change is absolutely not right.
“I told him repeatedly during that conversation that I welcome the discussion around how our city is governed.
“What I just can’t support is changed being rammed down our throats without a single second of public consultation. And on top of that, done in the middle of the election period itself. You don’t change the rules in the middle of the game. That is not right. And that is not fair.”
Tory went on to explain how hundreds of people have put their names forward to run for council, they’ve raised money, they’ve campaigned, and suddenly they’re being told to stop and that we’re not doing it that way anymore.
“What happens to them? How does that work? We don’t know,” says Tory.
“Changing our government structure without public consultation isn’t right and isn’t necessary. Change of this magnitude needs the public to be heard. We are talking about a city of three million people; they deserve to be heard.”
Tory was clearly frustrated and impassioned during his speech.
He challenged the Ford government and its promise to be a government for the people. “If you are truly a government for the people, then let’s put this question to the people. Let them decide.”
Now John Tory says he plans to move a motion Friday afternoon to find a way to have a referendum held, whether on the ballot for the Oct. 22 election or otherwise.
He wants the question to be simple, such as: Do you support reducing the size of city council from 47 to 25? Yes or no?
Tory also says he’ll be putting in a motion to ask lawyers in and out of government to examine different laws, to see Doug Ford’s boundaries in this situation.
Ultimately, the mayor has asked for an open discussion to include the public in the decision on whether or not to cut city council seats.
He says to make a massive change in the middle of an election campaign isn’t right and it isn’t fair.
“The city I want to lead has its elective representatives listen to its people.
“The people should decide.”