Toronto mayor asks Ontario premier to ‘hit the pause button’ on cutting council seats

Toronto Mayor John Tory has written a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking him to “hit the pause button” on cutting the number of city council seats from 47 to 25 and allow a referendum to be held before proceeding with the legislation.

“I have made my own position clear – it is unacceptable and unfair to change the rules in the middle of an election,” Tory said in the letter sent Thursday evening.

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“The proposed legislation is contrary to common sense in terms of both the practicality of altering a live election process and in terms of our ongoing provincial-municipal relationship.”

READ MORE: Toronto city council calls for referendum, special meeting as it opposes reduction of wards

The provincial government tabled legislation last month that would see the number of city council seats reduced by nearly half in the October municipal election.

“Something as fundamentally important as an election – a primary mechanism of civic democracy – should not be changed without public input and in the absence of a clear process or robust understanding of public impacts and costs,” Tory said.

VIDEO: Toronto Mayor John Tory, councillor have heated exchange during debate over cuts to council by Ford government

“In light of this lack of any public consultation, I urge you to consider putting the process on hold to allow for a referendum so we can let the people speak.”

City councillors voted last week to formally oppose the legislation and to further ask the city solicitor to examine the constitutionality of the bill.

READ MORE: Ontario to introduce legislation to cut Toronto city council seats by nearly half

“It is possibly contrary to the law, something that our city’s legal team has been directed to examine,” Tory wrote.

The Progressive Conservative government said the reduction in council seats would save the city $25.5 million over four years.

READ MORE: ‘Get up if you have the balls’: John Tory to councillor who hinted he knew about ward cut legislation

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.

Progress Toronto, a pro-democracy advocacy group, has since launched a petition asking the public to “stop Ford’s takeover of Toronto politics.”

VIDEO: Toronto MP and former councillor Adam Vaughan rips Ford plan on reducing council seats

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