Justice Centre denounces Ford’s Bill 195 power grab, punishment of principled conservative MPP

TORONTO: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (www.jccf.ca) today denounced the Ford government’s unconstitutional power grab with the June 21, 2020 passage of Bill 195. Bill 195 has taken law-making power regarding emergency orders away from the elected members of the Ontario Legislature and vested it in Doug Ford’s Cabinet. In a move that seems to exemplify and symbolize the Bill 195 power transfer away from elected legislators, the lone Progressive Conservative Party member to vote against Premier Ford’s Bill, MPP Belinda Karahalios, has been punished for her courage and principle by being kicked out of the party.

Bill 195 ends the state of emergency in Ontario, but contradictorily also allows Cabinet to extend existing orders by 30-day intervals for up to a year. Orders which were made to restrict the size of gatherings and close businesses, as well as alter collective bargaining agreements, are all now extended outside of the confines of the emergency. Orders allowing the police to demand identification, and orders releasing personal health info to police are also extended. Bill 195 creates the power for Ford’s Cabinet to extend and amend some of the emergency orders without the involvement of Ontario’s democratically-elected Provincial Parliament.

The Ford government’s move comes in the wake of the Alberta Government’s similar unconstitutional power grab, which exploited emergency powers to dramatically infringe constitutional rights during the emergency, and then transferred power away from the people’s representatives in the Legislature to a centralized core Cabinet afterward. In Alberta, Bill 10 gave individual cabinet ministers the power to write new laws and create new offences and penalties without any input from, or oversight by, the elected Legislative Assembly. Ontario’s Bill 195 also allows Cabinet to invest one single Minister with the power to amend emergency orders unilaterally.

Constitutionally, in Canadian federal and provincial governments there is a separation of powers between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government.

“The Legislature is separate from the Executive or Cabinet for a reason: the democratic voice of citizens is heard in the Legislature through their representatives regarding the laws that they will be governed by,” states John Carpay, lawyer and president of the Justice Centre. “With Bill 195, the Ford government is bypassing the people and increasing the power of his Cabinet. The consolidation of power in the Executive opens the door to the abuse of citizen rights, which is precisely why the Constitution grants legislative power in a province only to the Provincial Legislature.”

Doug Ford defended Bill 195 by claiming that his “government’s first priority is the health and safety of all Ontarians.”

“The main result of Bill 195 is to stifle the dissent of the Legislature and prevent interference with the Ford Cabinet’s power,” states Jay Cameron, the Justice Centre’s Litigation Director. “In a powerful illustration of where Ontario is headed next, Premier Ford has punished an elected legislator for disagreeing with the transfer of power away from accountable representatives to the provincial cabinet. Belinda Karahalios was democratically elected by the citizens of her Cambridge riding, and believes that Bill 195 is contrary to the Constitution, the rule of law and the best interests of her constituents. For her courage to vote in opposition to Doug Ford she has been removed from her party’s caucus,” continues Cameron.

“Emergency powers should be temporary and subject to rigorous, principled dissent. Bill 195 is the silencing of the peoples’ voice through their representatives in the provincial parliament. The removal of MPP Karahalios is a warning sign that the Ford government has an antagonistic stance toward democratic restraint on its power,” concludes Cameron.