The decision of the Ford government of Ontario to cut the number of city councillors in Toronto is not in and of itself a threat to democracy. The decision to do so in the middle of an election campaign is. As mentioned in previous blog posts the final day to register for local elections in Ontario was July 27th. This means that the democratic players of Ontario made their choices to run based on long-standing decisions about how the election would be structured. Doug Ford's decision throws all of this into chaos.
The 27th should have set the standards for the election for the candidates and the citizens. I do not love how early the registration closed, but the predictability of it is important to the democratic process. The candidates who registered and planned to run in Toronto now have their candidacies thrown into question. This is in addition to the regional chair elections that have also been cancelled. How are candidates supposed to campaign as a result of this fallout?
I do not like the idea of Toronto's City Council being cut down to twenty-five members. That does seem undersized to serve the city. Plenty of people elsewhere have made the argument that it is improper given the representative needs of the people of Toronto. That said, I could far more accept Ford's decision if it would impact the elections held in 2022. Impacting elections to be held in a few months time just seems vindictive to a level of government that left him bruised.
In short, Doug Ford and the new provincial government is acting in bad faith. It would be reasonable, though ill-advised, to make these cuts for a future election. To do so now is unnecessarily disruptive. The public and candidates were not even given the courtesy of having this idea floated during the campaign so they could prepare.
If this is a portent of how Doug Ford intends to govern, I am concerned. While Toronto bears the brunt there is no reason to assume he and his government will not be inclined to meddle in our local democracies in the future. Municipalities are utterly at the mercy of the provincial legislature. As a result, every Ontarian has a reason to be concerned.