It's about more than the not withstanding clause. As The Ford government meets in a rare Saturday session today, Martin Regg Cohn writes that this is all about our democratic norms:
Going forward, there’s a bigger question: What has the premier done to our democratic norms?
The Constitution is merely a piece of parchment. But our democracy is an unwritten code of conduct.
To understand the risk to Ontario’s democratic institutions, mind the premier’s public musings. Never mind a columnist’s calumny or lawyers’ disputatiousness.
Pay attention to Ford. Notwithstanding what the premier did with that contentious constitutional clause, it’s the why he did it that is so unforgiveable.
Ford believes that, in a democracy, the only thing that matters is elections. And, once elected, the winners can do whatever they want:
Consider his most frequent, yet fearful, refrain: “We were elected by 2.3 million people to move forward and make changes in this province.”
Is he not now premier of all 13 million Ontarians — not merely those who cast ballots from his besotted base, or voters who held their noses? Is he merely leader of Ford Nation, or premier of our province?
Defending the notwithstanding clause — often dubbed the “nuclear option” by legal experts — Ford demonstrated his newfound command of the law: It’s part of his toolbox, and “if it wasn’t there to be used, it would not be there.”
A novel argument, unless an American president ever used that logic for his own (non-constitutional) nuclear arsenal: If it’s there, surely it’s there to be used, so why not press the nuclear button to break a deadlock? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Whatever one thinks of Ford’s invocation of the notwithstanding clause, never before used in Ontario, it is his demonization of the judiciary that is unprecedented in this country’s recent history. That not a single member of his cabinet or caucus dissented from his rhetoric is to their enduring discredit.
When all the members of a government follow a fat headed fool over a cliff, we the people are in trouble.