Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 16, 2021
Ford government pushes through controversial election spending bill with notwithstanding clause
The government of Premier Doug Ford has pushed a controversial bill through the Ontario legislature limiting third-party election advertising by employing a rarely used legislative power.
Bill 307, which used the notwithstanding clause to reintroduce parts of a law struck down by a judge last week, passed Monday by a margin of 63 votes to 47.
The clause allows legislatures to override portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term.
A judge found it was unconstitutional for the government to double the restricted pre-election spending period for third-party advertisements to 12 months before an election call.
The Progressive Conservative government argued the extended restriction was necessary to protect elections from outside influence.
The bill passed Monday afternoon after a marathon weekend debate in which opposition politicians argued the government was trying to silence criticism ahead of next June’s provincial election.
“It’s obviously a move from a man who’s desperate to cling to power,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
The New Democrats spent the day trying to drag out the process by introducing a variety of motions on pandemic-related issues they argued should be the focus of the sitting. Ford said earlier on Monday that he wouldn’t be swayed.
“We’re fighting for democracy,” Ford said at Queen’s Park. “I’ll work all day, all night to protect the people.”
Last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan found it was unconstitutional for the Progressive Conservative government to double the restricted pre-election spending period for third-party advertisements to 12 months before an election call.
A bill that took effect this spring had stretched the restricted spending period from six months to one year before an election is called, but kept the spending limit of $600,000 the same.
Morgan found that the government didn’t provide an explanation for doubling the limit, and his decision meant sections of the law involved in the court challenge were no longer in effect. (CBC)