Candidate seeks injunction to delay Ontario's plan to cut size of Toronto city council

A lawyer vying for a spot on Toronto city council is taking legal action to delay the Ontario government's plan to redraw the city's political map.

Premier Doug Ford's plan 'strikes at the sense of fairness,' says lawyer running in Ward 13

City council hopeful Rocco Achampong, left, applied for an injunction to stop the bill put forward by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, centre, and opposed by Toronto Mayor John Tory. (Twitter/CBC )

A lawyer vying for a spot on Toronto city council is taking legal action to delay the Ontario government's plan to redraw the city's political map.

Rocco Achampong, a candidate in Ward 13, Eglinton-Lawrence, applied for an injunction at the Toronto division of Ontario Superior Court at noon on Tuesday looking to suspend legislation put forward by the Progressive Conservative government "until it can be heard on the merits." 

The PCs on Friday moved to redraw Toronto's ward boundaries, cutting the number of councillors nearly in half, from 47 to 25, less than 90 days before the Oct. 22 municipal election. The proposed Better Local Government Act would see Toronto's municipal ward boundaries mirror those of provincial ridings.

If successful, the injunction would see Toronto's election proceed according to the established boundaries.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, himself a former member of Toronto council, says it will make city hall more efficient. 

The move has drawn both ire and praise. Achampong says he was blindsided by the change.

"I thought that was a bit wild and a tad lacking in process since we have administrative procedures that governments go through to effect change, namely consultations and stakeholder inputs being sought," he said.

"That was not done here and it seemed unilateral." 

Achampong said his problem isn't necessarily with Ford's decision — he doesn't entirely disagree that council could be run more efficiently — but rather with its suddenness.

Ward 13 is the redrawn version of what was Ward 15, where Coun. Josh Colle is the incumbent. Colle announced last week he would not run again, and on the same day, his father and former city councillor and MPP, Mike Colle, signalled his plans to run in the same race.

"Some people are for it, some people are against it, but they are surprised that it happened in such a chaotic way. It strikes at the sense of fairness," he said.

The city is named as a respondent in the injunction application, he said, to force it to take a position on whether to take the province to court. 

"It strikes me as slightly lacking that a lone citizen of Toronto is taking on the government of Ontario and the city council has yet to get up and take a firm position," he said. 

His move comes one day after the council conveyed its opposition to Ford's plan and asked its solicitor to examine his bill's validity and constitutionality.

The solicitor is expected to report back on Aug. 20. 

A spokesperson for the Ford government says the province plans to move ahead with its legislation.

In a statement Wednesday, a city spokesperson said the city does not comment on legal actions of "outside parties," adding that the mayor has written a letter to the premier relaying council's opposition to the proposed change in the size of council.

City councillors recently voted to request the province to conduct a binding referendum on the number and boundaries of wards before passing the Better Local Government Act.

If the province does not conduct the referendum, councillors would like the provincial government to amend the Municipal Elections Act to permit the city to put a question on the 2018 voting ballot about the number of wards and council members before the province proceeds with the proposed legislation.

With files from Derick Deonarain