Tuesday, September 11, 2018

As Unfit As He Is

Yesterday, Doug Ford performed as predicted. He questioned a fundamental principle of Canadian democracy -- that we are a nation of laws, not men. Carissma Mathen writes in The Globe And Mail:

Ontario’s plan to invoke the notwithstanding clause – inserted into the Charter as part of final negotiations, and rarely used – was bound to be controversial. One might expect Section 33 to be used to respond to, or prevent, court decisions that imperil public safety (say, that strike down serious criminal offences) or wreak havoc to government’s finances. To use Section 33 then to maintain a preferred size of a city council is completely out of proportion – like using a drone strike to deal with a boisterous block party.
The problem is with how the Premier described his decision. He said the use of the notwithstanding clause was justified because of his political mandate. He said he was elected – and Justice Belobaba was merely appointed. The idea that governments might see their legislative goals struck down by a single judge was, he said, “scary.” Indeed, Premier Ford said he is prepared to use the notwithstanding clause again – leaving the clear impression that it will be his preferred response to any judicial setbacks.
There is so much wrong here one barely knows where to begin. First, while the Premier is correct that judges in Canada are not elected, he seems indifferent to the reasons why. We appoint judges and grant them security of tenure to preserve their impartiality and protect them from political reprisal. Indeed, it is the very nature of the judicial role that makes appointment rather than direct election necessary.
More fundamentally, the Premier seems to think his mandate entitles him to do whatever he pleases and any opposition is illegitimate. He suggests there is something wrong with judges overriding democratic decisions – even when those decisions are found to violate the Constitution. To be sure, many governments have expressed frustration with court decisions. But it is virtually unheard of for a Canadian political leader to appear to question the idea that we are a nation of laws.

And that is precisely the point. Ford has no idea of how the law works. Worse still, he has no respect for  the law. Most importantly, he received no mandate to reduce the size of Toronto's Council. He never mentioned the plan during the election. And, as far as his claim that he is the people's premier, it's clear he can't do basic math:

Mr. Ford says he was elected by 2.3 million people. But Ontario has over 13 million residents, all of whom are protected by the Constitution and all of whom deserve political leaders who understand what that means.
There is room for a serious discussion of the notwithstanding clause. The Premier’s comments fall dramatically short of that. They indicate an intention to rule by fiat and to attack the safeguards built into our system to prevent such rule. Eventually, the Premier will discover that his power is not limitless. The notwithstanding clause itself only applies to a few of the Charter’s provisions. But in the interim, he risks enormous damage to the fragile political trust, between the legislative, executive and judicial branches, that makes our system possible.

With his brother Rob, Doug created chaos when he was on Toronto City Council. He'll do the same for Ontario. If his caucus supports his decision, they are as unfit to govern as he is.

Image: Twitter


Lorne said...

At this stage of our lives, Owen, I think it is fair to say that we could do without some of the drama that 'living in interesting times' entails.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Lorne. This drama is all about an upside down world.

Anonymous said...

Mathen's analysis doesn't go far enough. She says, "the notwithstanding clause itself only applies to a few of the Charter’s provisions," which is true. And among the provisions it can't override are violations of democratic rights. So the notwithstanding clause doesn't cure the judge's ruling that Bill 5 violates the democratic rights of voters. I'm interested to see how this plays out.


Deacon Jester said...

It occurs to me to wonder that so many of the ills now befalling western civilization coincide so precisely with the decline of liberal arts education.

Owen Gray said...

All kinds of folks are interested in how this will end, Cap. Because Ford acts on impulse -- he doesn't think things through -- I suspect his gambit will backfire.

Owen Gray said...

I concur wholeheatedly, Deacon. A good liberal arts education teaches you how to think. That ability, talent -- call it what you will -- is in serious decline.

The Mound of Sound said...

This Ford business is especially creepy as I begin to wade into Woodward's book, "Fear."

Owen Gray said...

I've caught a couple of interviews wwith Woodward, Mound. He said he's never seen a president more unmoored from reality than Trump. It seems Ford believes he's the state. Both belong in the same asylum.

We're in trouble.

Rural said...

“Democracy is going every four years to elect a government…without worrying about your mandate being overturned,” .....said Mr. Ford.
All I can say is that Frauds view of democracy differs greatly from mine Owen!

Owen Gray said...

That's because Ford's definition of democracy isn't democracy, Rural. What he calls "democracy" is autocracy.

John B. said...

Sometimes when a child finds a big new toy, he doesn't know what it is; but he starts playing with it anyway. When he sees what he can do with his big new toy, it can make him feel really strong and tough even though and often especially that he might actually be quite an ineffectual and insecure mess, and he might start using it to break things that he doesn't like.

“We’re taking a stand, if you want to make new laws in Ontario or Canada, you first must seek a mandate from the people and you have to be elected.”

(The judge is making new laws! I knew it. The kids in the US see that type of thing all the time. Today - Ontario; Tomorrow - Canada!)

From one of Doug's playmates at the Sun:

"In making the announcement, Ford also warned activist judges he is prepared to do battle with them.

"The notwithstanding clause is part of our Constitution and made for cases just like this one.

"The court ruling that overturned Bill 5 is nothing short of a joke."

I wonder how many more nothing-short-of-a-jokes we can find that are just like this one.

“I also want to make it clear that we are prepared to use Section 33 again in the future."

What - not Very-Clear this time? That's showing them you can stand and speak up on your own this time, Dougie. Go ahead and kick 'em some more

Owen Gray said...

Dougie is prone to tantrums, John. Like the man in the White House, he never grew up.