City of Toronto v. Attorney General of Ontario
(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)
Constitutional law - Freedom of expression (s. 2(b)), Elections, Evidence, Fresh evidence - Constitutional law - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Freedom of Expression - Elections - Effective representation - Better Local Government Act, 2018, S.O. 2018, c. 11, alters number of wards and ward boundaries in City of Toronto during municipal election - Amendments to Regulations under the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, require school board to realign ward boundaries to same ward structure during trustee election - Whether s. 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the expression of electoral participants from substantial mid-election changes to the election framework and rules - Whether impugned legislation violates right to freedom of expression by effectively nullifying political speech of candidates and voters in municipal and school board elections - Whether unwritten constitutional principle of democracy can be used as basis for striking down provisions - Whether municipal electors given a vote in a democratic election are entitled to effective representation - Whether infringements are justified under s. 1 of the Charter?.
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On May 1, 2018, elections began for Toronto City Council and for trustees of the Toronto District School Board. The elections were based on 47 wards. After nomination periods closed and during the course of the election, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario enacted legislation reducing the number of wards from 47 to 25, changing ward boundaries, and reducing the number of city councillors to 25. This disrupted election campaigns. The City of Toronto and two groups of private individuals applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking orders restoring the 47 ward structure and challenging the constitutionality of the Better Local Government Act, 2018, S.O. 2018, c. 11. Toronto District School Board was added as an intervening party to the multiple court proceedings and additionally challenged changes to Regulations under the Education Act, RSO 1990, c. E.2, which required it to realign its ward boundaries to the 25 ward structure. On September 10, 2018, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued an order declaring that the legislative changes infringed s. 2(b) of Charter of Rights and Freedoms and were of no force and effect. On September 19, 2018, the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued an interim stay of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision. The elections proceeded based on 25 wards with the revised boundaries. On September 19, 2019, the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal and set aside the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision.
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