Critics slam Ford government for enacting Ontario’s first-ever notwithstanding clause

The Ford government has said they enacted the clause to keep elections from outside influence.

Critics are slamming Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives after they enacted a rarely used legislative power to pass a bill that limits third-party election advertising.

Premier Doug Ford enacted the rarely used notwithstanding clause Monday to pass Bill 307, which allows legislatures to override portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term.

The bill reinstates parts of Bill 254, which a judge deemed unconstitutional in an Ontario Superior Court decision last week.

Critics, opposition parties and unions said the Progressive Conservatives used the clause to silence COVID-19 criticism of Doug Ford’s government ahead of the election campaign season in Ontario.

“Doug Ford is ramming through legislation to muzzle the people he’s hurt and save his political skin. I’ve just written The Speaker of the House to let him know his violating long-standing house traditions for partisan reasons has had a hand in that,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Green party leader Mike Schreiner and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca both called it a “dark day for democracy.” 

Michael Bryant, Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) called the move a “cravenly self-interested abuse of extraordinary power.”

Bryant said Premier Doug Ford has a “rash constitutional tantrum whenever a court dares to enforce Ontarians’ constitutional rights – first with the Toronto election, in 2018, and now the Ontario provincial election.”

“A dark day for democracy”

The CCLA labeled the move as “unconstitutional, and undemocratic.”

Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour President, said the bill “is simply an end-run on our democracy and it is unacceptable.”

“We won’t forget this government’s self-serving attempt to silence critics and rig the next election in their favour,” added Coates.

The Ford government has said they enacted the clause to keep elections from outside influence.

In a statement last week, Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the government “will be using every tool in the toolbox” to make sure its changes stick.

Calandra said it’s about protecting the individual rights of Ontario voters and protecting our elections “from American-style super PACs and their big-money political influence.”