Careless with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Once again, the Progressive Conservative Premier of Ontario Doug Ford has demonstrated an ego-driven approach to forming public policy and shaping even democracy itself.
After passing partisan legislation to make the next provincial election likely more favourable to Progressive Conservative electoral success at the expense of other parties, the Superior Court of Ontario then struck down the new limits on third-party political spending, decrying them as infringements on the Canadian Charter of Rights' guarantee of free expression. The Ford government in response engaged in the shameful move of invoking the Notwithstanding Clause to sustain the legislation, in line with the letter but not the spirit of the law.
The Notwithstanding Clause has never been used by any prior government of Ontario or federal government. The Clause exists as a last-resort measure against judges who unreasonably engage in judicial activism against elected lawmakers. The Premier did not use this clause as a last resort; he could have simply appealed his case to the Supreme Court, or put pressure on the federal government to appoint different judges. He made the impulsive choice instead.
There is a reasonable debate to be had on restricting third-party spending in Ontario politics: just as the new law will constrain third-party spending by unions advocating against Progressive Conservatives, it may in the future limit corporate advocacy against the other parties too. But Premier Ford decided to take the conversation off the rails instead.
The only thing worse than a politician who does business as usual, is a politician who finds a way to set new lows. And when a politician and his party decide to set new unprecedented lows for democratic accountability, the only appropriate response is to humble them with new unprecedented lows of political power for them.
Ottawa / Renfrew