Doug Ford promised to shrink Toronto city council — why premiers can do that

WATCH: Ontario Premier Doug Ford, just a month into his new job, is cutting down the number of politicians in Canada's largest city. The plans for downsizing has spawned an uproar. Mike Drolet reports on the motive behind this bold move.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s plan to reduce the size of Toronto city council by nearly half prompted an outcry from Mayor John Tory Friday, who said the move was “not fair.”

But Ford has the power to cut the city’s council from 47 to 25 seats — and make several other changes — under the Canadian constitution, University of Toronto politics professor Nelson Wiseman explained.

READ MORE: Ontario to introduce legislation to cut Toronto city council seats by nearly half

“They can do whatever they want with municipalities,” he said, giving the 1998 amalgamation of Toronto as an example.

“Twenty-five years ago, Scarborough wasn’t part of the City of Toronto, nor was North York,” he said.

“The government amalgamated the various burroughs and the City of Toronto. The provincial government can do that, it can do this.”

WATCH: Doug Ford introducing legislation to reduce size, cost of government

It can even do things like decide the mayor will be appointed by council, rather than elected, Wiseman said.

The Constitution Act spells out the rules in section 92, subsection 8.

“In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,” section 92 reads.

READ MORE: No plans to axe Ottawa wards ahead of municipal election, Ford says

Subsection 8 adds: “Municipal Institutions in the Province.”

But provinces, in practice, don’t run free with power. That’s because they have to take public opinion into account.

WATCH: Doug Ford announces plan to cut size of Toronto city council

Tory, who was notably upset with Ford’s announcement, can appeal to the public for support, Wiseman said.

“The mayor has his pulpit. He can try to rally public opinion. Politicians don’t like to go against public opinion, so that’s a form of persuasion,” the professor explained.

If that is what Tory chooses to do, he will have support of some key figures, including former city councilor and current Liberal MP Adam Vaughan.

READ MORE: Ottawa prepared to work around Ontario’s ‘vindictive and destructive’ actions, Adam Vaughan says

In an interview with Global News, Vaughan said the move could “break Toronto.” He promised the federal government would back the city.

“The federal government will not forget that at the end of the day Torontonians are Canadians, as well,” he said.

WATCH: John Tory reacts to province’s plan to cut size of council

There’s also the fact that the move is something that Ford has merely promised, Wiseman noted. There are still many steps needed for it to be in force by the October 2018 municipal election.

The bill will have to go through the entire legislative process — house readings, debate, and possible committee deliberation.

WATCH: Adam Vaughan rips Ford plan on reducing council seats

“He wants to do it. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow,” Wiseman said.

Ford, however, does have a majority government, which should make it easier for him to realize his plan.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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