Ford government rams through unconstitutional bill to silence critics

Source: Unifor National

June 14, 2021

TORONTO- Doug Ford’s conservative government proves it will go to any length to silence critics, as it rams though an unconstitutional bill using a power never resorted to in the history of Ontario.

“The emergency recall of Queen’s Park to pass undemocratic legislation in a matter of hours using the Notwithstanding clause clearly illustrates this government’s self-serving priorities,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Where were the all-night sessions on COVID health measures, or vaccine rollout, or the crisis in long-term care when seniors were dying? Those issues didn’t warrant swift action but instead conservative MPPs are able to pull out all the stops to muzzle those who would point out Ford’s failures.”

Today the majority Conservatives voted to pass Bill 307, the so-called Protecting Elections and Defending Democracy Act, which utilizes the Notwithstanding clause to circumvent an Ontario Superior Court ruling that struck down its predecessor. In a decision released June 8, 2021, the court found the restrictions on third party political advertising prior to an election period in Bill 254 violated the Charter right to free expression and are not justified under section 1.

“The Ontario government could have appealed the court ruling, or rewritten the legislation that was struck down but instead Doug Ford chose to trample free speech and voter’s rights, and abuse his power to put himself above the courts,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi.

Bill 307 severely limits third parties’ advertising and activity with a massive expansion of the pre-election period, restricting all political or issue-based advertising for 12 months before an election. The new law comes into immediate effect as Ontario’s set election date is less than one year from today, hobbling political advocacy and the ability of voters to critique government policies.

Unifor had outlined its objectives to this undemocratic legislation, which also prohibits like-minded organizations from joining in support of shared public policy concerns and objectives.

“Suppressing members of the public and organizations that advocate on behalf of workers from free expression is a direct attack on democracy and our free election system,” said Dias. “Unifor and its members will not be gagged or censored.”

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