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Following are this week’s summaries of the civil decisions of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
The headline decision this week is Toronto (City) v Ontario (Attorney General). Everyone will recall that the Better Local Government Act, 2018, passed shortly before the 2018 municipal election, reduced the number of wards from 47 to 25 in the middle of the election campaign. The City and others challenged the constitutionality of the change. After Belobaba J. declared the change unconstitutional for violating the freedom of expression, last year a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal stayed the lower court decision pending the appeal, permitting the election to proceed on the basis of 25 wards. On the appeal itself, four of the five members of the panel of the Court noted that the section 2(b) protection of expression does not extend to the effectiveness of the expression. The majority therefore concluded that the change mid-election was not unconstitutional. The majority also found that the application judge had improperly subsumed the right to vote into the right to freedom of expression. MacPherson JA dissented, and would have dismissed the appeal, finding that the freedom of expression had been violated.