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Here is the way to hold Doug Ford accountable for the Greenbelt scandal

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In Bradford West Gwillimbury
Aug 25th, 2023
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Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks during a press conference in on Friday. |

From the Toronto Star, august 17, 2023
By Linda Silver Dranoff Contributor

The auditor general has issued a damning report, chastising Premier Doug Ford and his government for lack of transparency, fairness, consultation and good faith in opening up the Greenbelt to developers.

Significant abuses by Ford’s government, particularly his non-elected political staff, were revealed. The rules were ignored and the process used was indefensible, such as letting developers dictate the wording of legislation and the land to be released from protection. The public service was sidelined.

The breadth and arrogance of this government’s actions has now been impressively documented by the auditor general in the Greenbelt Report. The auditor general recommended that the government reverse its decision. Premier Ford has made it clear he will not change course.

What can we do about it?

Use the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Use the courts. As citizens, let’s assert our rights in our democracy based on the rule of law, to challenge actions by legislators who abuse their power.

Premier Doug Ford has breached the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and should be held accountable. The province must follow the rules set out in the Charter, which applies to the legislature and government of each province.

The Charter confirms that Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of the rule of law. The rule of law is an essential principle of democracy.

Democratic rights are protected in section 3. While they are stated to be the right to vote in an election held at least every five years, the democratic rights to which citizens are entitled are not limited to the right to vote, nor is this right subject to the notwithstanding clause.

The Charter in fact, is not the full statement of our rights. Section 26 of the Charter states specifically that other rights and freedoms prevailing at the time the Charter was enacted, also continue to exist.

The inherent rights that pre-existed and survived the Charter include the unwritten constitutional principles that our society operates according to the rule of law and democracy. No one, even if elected, is above the law.

Democracy means rule by the people. It allows us to elect representatives who are expected to be transparent about their plans and represent our views. They are expected to be accountable (and not just every five years), responsive, and allow citizens to contribute to the decision-making process. These rights exist if section 26 is to have any meaning at all.

There is strong legal precedent. These rights were clearly stated in the 1959 Supreme Court of Canada pre-Charter case of Roncarelli v. Duplessis, which reviewed whether a provincial premier with a majority government had unlimited power over its citizens.

Premier Maurice Duplessis of Quebec arbitrarily withdrew the liquor licence of a restaurant owner, Frank Roncarelli, as payback for him bailing out members of the Jehovah’s Witness community, whom the Premier considered his enemies. The Supreme Court of Canada in 1959 rejected his unlimited power to act in an arbitrary manner and supported the principle that elected officials must exercise their discretion in good faith. The court also found that Duplessis was personally liable in damages for his behaviour.

The court affirmed that the unwritten constitutional principle of the rule of law meant no public official was above the law, and every public power must be exercised in good faith. There is no such thing as absolute and untrammeled discretion (even in a majority government). The role of the court is to ensure those boundaries are kept.

The Supreme Court decision in Roncarelli v. Duplessis has been upheld in over a thousand subsequent cases, and remains the law of the land.

Premier Ford has made it clear he won’t stop himself, so we have to stop him. The tools we have are the Charter, the rule of law and the courts. Let’s use them.

Linda Silver Dranoff is a lawyer and author of “Every Canadian’s Guide to the Law.”

read the article here

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