Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province will introduce legislation that aims to reduce the size of Toronto city council by nearly half just months before the fall municipal election.
“We will be introducing legislation that, if passed, would dramatically improve the decision-making process at Toronto city hall,” Ford said at a news conference Friday morning at the Ontario legislature.
“For too long, the people of Toronto have watched city council go around, and around, and around in circles and failed to act on the critical issues facing the city.”
The premier said the reduction in council seats would save the City of Toronto $25.5 million over four years. A Ford spokesperson said the number takes into account how much the city spends on each councillor annually, which is around $290,000 per ward.
“We’re going to streamline Toronto city council. We’re going to align Toronto with federal and provincial boundaries,” Ford said.
At the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the rising star became the youngest player to ever score for team Canada and the youngest scorer in the tournament's history. He took home the Golden Boot and Best Young Player honours from the event.
READ MORE: Ontario government to dramatically cut Toronto city council size ahead of upcoming election
The legislation would reduce the size of council from 47 to 25 seats. Candidates will now have until Sept. 14 to hand in their registration papers.
The Vancouver Whitecaps confirmed Wednesday that German soccer giant Bayern Munich has agreed to a transfer deal for the 17-year-old Canadian international midfielder. Bayern said Davies' contract runs until 2023.
The deadline to register to run for mayor, councillor and school board trustee positions across Ontario was 2 p.m. on Friday. Election day is on Oct. 22.
The 2018 election is the first since the City of Toronto changed its ward boundary structure, which happened earlier this council term. The last review was done in 2000. Three new wards were created and 47 councillor positions were created, up from 44.
Earlier in the day, Mayor John Tory said he wanted to hold a referendum and that it was “absolutely not right” to have the size of council reduced without public consultation.
"He did it with such poise and enthusiasm and was wide-eyed by the end of it. And I was so proud of him and just delighted for his family that they could live the Canadian dream."
“I’m angry at the process because I think it is disrespectful of the people, most of all, in that I think people, when there’s a major change being made to their civic democracy, deserve to be consulted in one way, shape or form,” Tory told reporters during a news conference at city hall.
Tory said he plans to put forth a motion at city council Friday asking for a referendum question be put on the upcoming election ballot.
When asked by reporters if he had had any discussions with Ford on the reduction in size of city council, Tory said he had heard it “in passing” during a recent meeting with the premier two weeks ago.
“It wasn’t put on the basis that he was planning to do it. He said that he’s talked about it before and I actually sort of dismissed it on the basis of saying, ‘Well, that’s not something that could be done. We’re in the middle of an election campaign’,” Tory said.
“The matter dropped at that stage because I didn’t have the sense he was pursuing it, either.”
READ MORE: ‘Get up if you have the balls’: John Tory to councillor who hinted he knew about ward cut legislation
He'll play out the rest of the season in Vancouver. He's eligible to join Bayern when the international transfer window re-opens in January 2019.
“Not only did we speak to him once, we consulted numerous times their staff and we never had this reaction,” Ford said.
“Matter of fact, deep down, and I’m not too sure where the mayor is going with this. He knows less politicians is good. It’ll make his job a lot easier. He’ll be able to get things done. All the politicians down there know it.”
The proposed legislative changes, which have been included in the Better Local Government Act, would also eliminate elected chair positions in the regions of Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka.
The club's sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, posted about his newest player on Twitter, calling Davies a "huge talent."
Former Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader Patrick Brown is slated to run for Peel chair and former Liberal cabinet minister Steven Del Duca in York.
Global News obtained an internal email Thursday evening sent to Progressive Conservative government members containing talking points about the proposed changes.
An over-sized council makes it almost impossible to build meaningful consensus, the email said.
When asked by reporters about a possible referendum, the premier said the public was already consulted about the reduction in the size of government during the election campaign.
“I think we were pretty clear on the election. When I talked to thousands and thousands of people, the referendum was pretty clear,” Ford said.
“Our mandate was pretty clear. Reduce the size and cost of government. Put money back in the people’s pockets and get things done. People are tired of watching city hall. It’s like a comedy show down at city hall.”
Throughout the provincial election campaign, Ford had promised to scrap the controversial sex-ed curriculum as he said it was done with little consultation. The Progressive Conservative government earlier this month said Ontario schools will go back to teaching the same lesson plans they had in the late 1990s this fall.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a written statement late Thursday that the proposed legislation would mean less accountability and transparency.
She said the proposed changes werent a part of the provincial election campaign earlier this year and there wasnt any consultation process.
Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevc called Ford’s plan a “destructive attack on local democracy” and former Toronto mayor David Miller said the move to cut councillors is “totally against the spirit and language of the City of Toronto Act.”
Hoggard is accused of sexually assaulting a woman and a girl on separate occasions while in Toronto. CBC News does not know the identity of the alleged teenage victim but can confirm that a former Algonquin College student is linked to one of the charges.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam cited the amalgamation of the City of Toronto and six constituent municipalities as an example of how reducing size didn’t reduce costs.
Under the Criminal Code, the charge of sexual interference is only laid if the alleged victim is under the age of 16. According to the statement, the alleged assaults occurred on three separate dates in 2016 and involved a woman and a girl.
“We also know that amalgamation or reduction of council in the past has not produced any savings whatsoever. Studies from universities, studies from think tanks afterwards have also said exactly the same thing,” Wong-Tam said on Friday.
“We have fought the mega city. It did not create better government for us and for them to want to hoist this upon us again is an affront to our democracy.”
Progress Toronto, a pro-democracy advocacy group, has launched a petition asking the public to “stop Ford’s takeover of Toronto politics.”
“He is abusing his power as premier and he is messing with our political system in the middle of an election to try to control Toronto City Hall from Queen’s Park,” the petition reads.
However, not everyone was opposed to the reduction in council seats. Councillor Jim Karygiannis released a statement saying the proposal will foster better working relations with provincial and federal politicians when the boundaries are aligned.
“When the old boundaries were set in 1997, it was two City Councillors for every Federal riding and there was more equal representation. It is time that we set our boundaries similar to the Federal and Provincial constituencies for truly equal representation,” Karygiannis said in a statement.
Toronto police and Peel Regional Police released a joint statement saying Hoggard has been charged with two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one count of sexual interference.
“This will reduce the number of municipal politicians and will save the City over ten million dollars.”
Like-minded councillors who agree with Ford’s plan said during a news conference Friday afternoon that decision-making at city hall will be vastly improved and constituents will now have a fair vote.
“This is not about what you and I want. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that voters have the right to have a balanced, weighted vote,” Councillor Justin Di Ciano said.
“That’s why this process came about. So I’m not sure how a referendum of what our ideals, thoughts are, can override the supreme court ruling that says everyone’s vote has to be worth the same amount.”
Hoggard is scheduled to appear in court Thursday. Police are concerned there may be more victims, according to the statement.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, an ally of Ford, said the premier is simply in touch with what the public wants.
As she read the police statement, she expressed surprise that investigators attached a mug shot of Hoggard.
“The premier is right. His gut instinct is right and he’s not the first premier ever to use a majority to do what he’s wanted to do,” Mammoliti said.
Ford’s nephew, Councillor Michael Ford, said his uncle’s plan was publicly known and was not a surprise.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about this. This is something that has been in this building for a long time, a conversation that has not just begun now,” Ford said.
“It was a conversation that this premier and this government heard out talking to tens of thousands of Torontonians over the past three months.”
Councillor Michael Thompson admitted he thought the reduction of city council size would happen in time for the 2022 municipal election, but said Ford acted more swiftly.
“The legislation allows him to basically act in this way. He’s not doing anything illegal. I don’t hear any of you saying that,” Thompson told reporters.
“He is being basically steadfast with respect to his position that he’s always maintained that the size of council needs to be addressed in order to be more efficient, more effective and address the issue around cost.”
During a city council meeting on Friday, city staff said there will be logistical challenges in getting everything in order for the Oct. 22 election date.
“We cannot run an election with a nomination day that ends on September 14th and be ready to have an advance vote on October 6th,” Toronto City Clerk Ulli Watkiss told members of council, adding extensive ballot machine testing and ballot printing deadlines won’t make that timeline.
Watkiss said major projects that will need to be done by city staff include developing a communications plan to inform Toronto residents about the changes, working with provincial officials to revise the preliminary voters list, updating all voting technology to process the ward boundaries, reviewing vendor contracts and implementing enhanced training for election workers.
She also cautioned that if staff can’t change all the voting tabulators in time, elections staff may need to count ballots by hand.
READ MORE: Toronto council could shrink to 25 members – heres how cities around the world compare
Watkiss said it typically takes eight to 10 months to prepare for a municipal election and now staff are facing a deadline of less than three months.
She said a lot is still unknown because city staff haven’t seen the proposed provincial legislation. Watkiss said they weren’t consulted on the changes until Friday morning, something that hasn’t happened in her time as a municipal employee.
“In my 30-odd years as a city clerk, I have never been in a situation where I’ve been provided with legislation that has not had extensive review with the clerks’ offices in the province that they impact — ever,” she said.
City staff were asked if a referendum question about the issue could be put on the ballot, but they said under the province’s current laws the deadline to do so passed in March.