So what exactly is going on with this election? This question has been front and centre in Toronto for several weeks now. To recap:
The original plan was to run the election on a 47-ward model. This number was decided upon after two years of review and consultation, and it survived a court challenge. School board boundaries were redrawn accordingly. Everything was hunky dory.
Then Doug Ford came along and upset the apple cart. In the middle of the election campaign, he dropped the bombshell announcement that the election would be run on a 25-ward model. Things were not hunky dory anymore. Candidates scrambled to adjust their campaigns, canvass in new areas, and get new campaign materials printed.
Then the city mounted a legal challenge and won. Justice Edward Belobaba declared that the bill to reduce wards was unconstitutional, since it violated our right to effective representation, and therefore our freedom of expression.We were back to the 47-ward model. There were sighs of relief and happy dances all over the city.
But Doug Ford was not done. While the rest of Ontario wondered when their Premier would start paying attention to actual provincial issues, Ford was filing appeals and tabling legislation that included the use of the notwithstanding clause – a tool that allows governments to override certain sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the wrong hands, the notwithstanding clause is a little terrifying.
Anyway, one part of Doug’s multifaceted approach was to go to the Court of Appeals and ask for a stay on Justice Belobaba’s ruling. The Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the province, which means we are now back to the 25-ward model. At this point, with the election just over a month away, it is almost certain that the election will proceed on this basis.
Many questions remain. Are the city’s legal options exhausted at this time? What will happen if Justice Belobaba’s ruling is later upheld? How long could this legal back and forth go on for?
But right now, we are running on the 25-ward model. I have been prepared for either eventuality, and I am ready to hit the campaign trail hard. I have already met many of the wonderful constituents in our school board ward, and I look forward to meeting many more.
And if I do have the honour of being elected, I am prepared to hit the ground running when the term of office starts. I am in it for the students and their parents, and for the community as a whole.