On Friday morning, Premier Doug Ford declared his intention to change Ontario’s laws for municipal governance – mere months before local elections this fall. The Conservative government’s proposed legislation will cut democratic representation in the City of Toronto in half and replace elected chairs with appointed ones in the regions of York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka.
The Ford government’s latest attack on democracy does not only target people living in the Greater Toronto Area. Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark has indicated that the proposed legislation will also include a wider “review of regional government”. Similar cuts and sweeping changes are likely coming to municipalities across the province, but the people of Ontario should not expect to have a say in it.
Not once during the election campaign did Premier Ford reveal his hidden plan to interfere in municipal elections. Since being elected 8 weeks ago, Premier Ford has not spent a single minute consulting the people of Toronto, York, Peel, Niagara and Muskoka about the impact of reducing their elected municipal representation. Premier Ford has no mandate from the people of Ontario to make this reckless, anti-democratic decision. Acting out on his personal grudges and pleasing his inner circle are more important to Premier Ford than hearing from everyday Ontarians.
Municipalities deliver crucial front-line services that people depend on every single day, such as water, roads, garbage collection, public health, parks and recreation, child care, libraries, and more. Premier Ford’s cuts will only make it harder for those of us living in these communities to have our service needs met. The people of Ontario need to be able to access local decision-makers and have fair and accountable representation in municipal government.
The chaos that Premier Ford has created in the largest city in Canada will cause irreparable harm. Hundreds of people have already registered to run in the upcoming municipal election, many of whom are working class people, community activists and first-time candidates who want to make a difference. Several candidates have already given up their usual jobs to dedicate themselves to their campaigns. Candidates have already knocked on hundreds of doors, set up constituency offices and spent thousands of dollars in printing campaign information. Moreover, hundreds of Ontarians have donated to campaigns that they believe in. But at the last possible second, Premier Ford has changed the rules, putting everything in jeopardy.
CUPE Ontario will band together with other unions, district labour councils and community groups to resist Premier Ford’s attack on our democracy and municipal services. From legal challenges to mass public mobilization, no stone shall be left unturned to protect #OurCityHall.
President, CUPE Ontario