On Monday, Premier Doug Ford stated that his government would invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that it could proceed with reducing the size of Toronto city council — even though Bill 5, which legislated the reduction, was deemed “unconstitutional” by a Superior Court justice. Most experts say that Ford is on firm legal ground.
But is this what the framers of our constitutional compromise of 1981 had in mind when they added Section 33 to the Charter?
One of the parties to that compromise says no.
As a rule, former Progressive Conservative premier Bill Davis has avoided weighing in on controversial issues since he retired from public life in 1985. He is still interested in political developments but has been content to wield whatever influence he may have almost entirely behind the scenes.
Still, of the 11 first ministers who, 37 years ago, hammered out that historic constitutional compromise, only three are still alive. The 89-year-old Davis is one of them — and he knows what his colleagues had in mind when they created the notwithstanding clause all those years ago.
“Making the Charter a central part of our Constitution, Canada’s basic law, was a deliberate and focused decision by the prime minister and premiers,” Ontario’s 18th premier explained over the phone yesterday.