Doug Ford and John Tory
Premier Doug Ford (left) photo by Laura Proctor, Mayor John Tory photo (right) by Eóin Noonan

Tory Unlocks Local Tyrant Powers

Toronto has reached the precipice of being an illiberal democracy. Majority rule is out.

With Doug Ford’s Ontario government passing the “Strong Mayors” legislation, city council has been completely sidelined from decision-making processes.

The mayor now has veto power to propose bylaws, change existing bylaws and alter regulations that have to do with vague policy categories of housing, infrastructure and transit. Mayor John Howard Tory is now able to enact laws with just one-third of the city’s elected councillors on his side.

The municipality of Toronto is now subject to formalized minority rule, removing even the pretense of being a semi-functional liberal democratic form of government.

The bill was written in secret by Tory and Ford, a fact Tory didn’t tell us, the public, during the municipal election.

Tory now tells us to trust him. Why would we?

When they were passing the legislation at Queen’s Park, the Ford government refused to engage with the democratic implications.

Then, Toronto City Council, on its first day in session in November, voted 13-to-12 against discussing the implications of the changes.

Out of the 13 councillors who voted to shut down discussion, they almost exclusively represent suburban ridings, and seven were previously heralded by Ford as “fiscally conservative councillors” for supporting his government when it cut council in half in 2018.

Folks, we’re seeing the culmination of 30 years of the province’s anti-democratic attacks on Toronto and its local right to self-government and decision-making processes. And let’s be honest, there wasn’t enough deliberation and participation in this democracy to begin with.

Now all pretenses are removed, and Toronto and Ottawa have become the only formal governments in “Western democracies” that operate without the principle of “majority rule” in one of their legislative branches.

Real estate developers and landlords must be happy. Corporate interests won’t even have to pretend to solicit public support to achieve their goals and secure profits. They’ve got their guy in power.

We need to make it politically infeasible for Tory to even imagine using his new powers without serious consequences.

This article appeared in the 2022 Dec/2023 Jan issue.