Doug Ford's caucus never questions what he says or does. But the courts do. And although he's only been in office for four months, they are questioning the big man's wisdom. Martin Regg Cohn writes:
In the first of Ford’s legal confrontations, he was trounced by Tesla — that emblem of elitist environmentalism. The Tories had tried to make an example of the luxury California carmaker by depriving it of rebates flowing to competitors. But Justice Frederick Myers wasn’t buying it — lambasting the government for acting in an “egregious” and “unlawful” way. He also ordered it to pay $125,000 for Tesla’s legal costs.
Government lawyers were in court last week defending the premier’s impulsive meddling in the middle of Toronto’s municipal elections. They had to explain why Ford ordered a virtual halving of representation after candidates had begun campaigning and fundraising — an intervention without precedent. A baffled Justice Edward Belobaba asked rhetorically whether the premier had bothered to seek formal legal advice from his attorney general before interfering: “I’ll bet the answer’s no.” Government lawyers wouldn’t say.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association sought a court injunction against the government’s arbitrary rollback of the updated sexual education curriculum (reinstating a dated, two-decade-old version). The Tories want all parents consulted (father knows best), ignoring the 4,000 parental representatives from schools surveyed for the 2015 update written by panels of pedagogical experts. Will a judge let a government erase the minority rights of LGBTQ students on the say-so of the loudest online voices?
Recipients of a minimum income program prematurely cancelled by the Tories have launched a class action lawsuit. More than 4,000 impoverished people enrolled in the pilot program — set up on the recommendation of Hugh Segal, a former Conservative senator (and adviser to ex-premier Bill Davis) — which the Ford campaign explicitly pledged to keep going. Within weeks, the government went back on its word. Promise made, promise broken?
All these legal costs pale beside the $30 million budgeted by the Tories to fight Ottawa over a federal carbon tax triggered by Ford’s cancellation of Ontario’s cap and trade program (costing the province its exemption). Even Manitoba’s PC government has refused to join Ford’s fight because its legal experts say contesting an undisputed federal taxing power is pointlessly political.
Rolling back renewable energy laws has exposed Ontario to litigation by companies that collectively spent billions of dollars on carbon allowances under the cap and trade regime. It has also opened the door to lawsuits over cancelled wind turbine contracts.
How long until the families of overdose victims sue the government for recklessly endangering lives by suspending emergency prevention sites on the flimsy grounds that more evidence is needed? Bad enough that the premier ignores outside evidence on sex education; how can he flout the medical consensus on overdose prevention?
Like so many of his conservative brethren, Doug Ford has no use for facts or evidence. But courts do. And his refusal to deal with facts will cost him -- big time.
He vows that he will cut the deficit. But his legal bills will add to it.
Image: Toronto Star