‘Toronto was singled out:’ Court hears challenges to council cuts

The City of Toronto can expect to have a decision soon about whether the province’s new law to slash council from 47 to 25 seats will stand.

Judge Edward Belobaba told an Ontario Superior Court Friday that after the day’s hearings, he would need until Sept. 10 — or Sept. 11 at the latest — to make a ruling on the challenges to Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act.

He said his aim was to have it before Sept. 14, the nomination deadline for councillors and school board trustees.

The three challenges — from the city, as well as council candidates and voters — hinge on Charter rights, constitutional principles and effective representation, among other issues.

But Belobaba said if there is a genuinely persuasive argument against Bill 5, it will find itself under Section 2(b) — freedom of expression — of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Effective representation

City lawyer Diana Dimmer argued Toronto has the power to change ward boundaries and the composition of council.

She said the city commissioned an independent review of the boundaries, with the guiding principle being whether there’s effective representation — a notion, she pointed out, that goes back to confederation.

“Dividing the city into 25 wards creates ward sizes that are significantly larger than ward sizes of any other municipality in Ontario,” the city’s legal team has said. “Such a redistribution of wards does not provide for effective representation now or in the future.”

Dimmer also chided Premier Doug Ford for comments he made at Queen’s Park suggesting city council will debate for 10 hours about getting a cat out of a tree.

“This isn’t a joke. This is very serious,” she said, noting Toronto’s government is the sixth largest in Canada, after Ottawa and a handful of provinces.

Belobaba acknowledged Toronto might have a “dysfunctional council” and “time-wasting debates,” but he also cited a Supreme Court decision outlining “the right to have one’s grievances heard by a local representative.”

Bill’s impact on marginalized groups

Goldblatt Partners — representing council candidate Chris Moise and voter Ish Aderonmu and advocacy group Women Win TO — said Bill 5 interferes with fundamental charter and electoral rights and disproportionately affects people of colour, women and LGBTQ candidates.

Lawyer Heather Ann McConnell said the bill further disadvantaged these groups, “widen[ing] the gap of discrimination for candidates, electors and community groups.”

Howard Goldblatt also argued that although the city clerk said switching back to a 47-ward election at this point wouldn’t be possible “without concerns for the integrity of the vote,” those comments weren’t categorical.

He said all of the preparation for the 47-ward structure has been preserved.

“In fact, it can be done,” he said. “It needs to be done.”

Timing of Bill 5

Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein — representing a group of council hopefuls and voters who were serving as intervenors and were not party to any of the applications — said Bill 5 interferes with democracy.

Donald Eady said Queen’s Park “has come into the City of Toronto, and only the City of Toronto, and has changed the rules of the game two-thirds of the way through an election campaign.”

He called it a “very serious incursion into democratic process.”

Voter parity

The province’s lawyers argued Bill 5 achieves great voter parity by evening out the population in each ward so each vote has similar weight.

But lawyers for council candidate Rocco Achampong called the province’s argument flawed and short-sighted.

They also said the federal boundary review is “totally inappropriate” for local government, and if applied to other municipalities, would leave Hamilton with five councillors, North Bay with one, and Barrie with none.

“Toronto was singled out for this treatment,” said Gavin Magrath.

Meanwhile the province’s lawyer Robin Basu said it does not have to consult municipalities, calling them “creatures of the Legislature.”

He claimed solicitor-client privilege and refused to confirm Belobaba’s suspicions that the Ford government did not seek legal advice before proceeding with the bill.

He also reiterated the city clerk’s comments about maintaining the integrity of the election and addressed the timing issue, saying intervening after the election would have been even more disruptive.

Bill 5, which became law on Aug. 14, also cancels planned elections for regional chairs in Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara, turning them into appointed roles, and redraws school ward boundaries.

Belobaba postponed the Toronto District School Board’s challenge of the trustee changes until a decision is made on the main issue of council cuts.



Drunk man urinates on woman passenger’s seat in Air India flight

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/Asia News Network): An inebriated man allegedly urinated on the seat of a woman passenger on board an Air India international flight AI 102 on Thursday when it was on its way to New Delhi from New York.

Following the incident, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has sought a report from the national carrier.

Indrani Ghosh, daughter of the woman passenger, took to Twitter on Friday evening and narrated the incident saying her mother had to face extreme shock and trauma. She tagged Union ministers Suresh Prabhu and Sushma Swaraj in the tweet alongside the national carrier Air India.

“@Suresh Prabhu, @Sushma Swaraj @Air India. 30th Aug AI102 JFK to Delhi, seat36D. My mother travelling alone had to face extreme shock and trauma when a drunk passenger post dinner service fumbled across to her seat, removed his pants and urinated on her seat! Please look into urgently,” she tweeted.

In a response to a tweet from activist Kavita Krishnan, the daughter said, “My mother while waiting in her wheelchair at Delhi airport (for her connecting flight), saw him (the accused passenger) walk away.”

Following the incident, junior aviation minister Jayant Sinha directed Air India to follow up the matter immediately and report back to the ministry and the aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

“@airindiain please follow up immediately and report back to MoCA/DGCA. Very unfortunate that your mother had to go through this harrowing experience,” Mr Sinha said in his tweet. – The Statesman/Asia News Network
Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2018/09/01/drunk-man-urinates-on-woman-passengers-seat-in-air-india-flight/#VvJViQcDEFQmlVSo.99

New Jersey couple ordered to turn over money raised for homeless man who spent his last $20 to help them

A New Jersey couple was ordered to turn over the remaining funds they raised for a homeless Pennsylvania man, who used his last $20 to help a driver stranded on the side of the road last year.

Johnny Bobbitt first met 28-year-old Katelyn McClure on the shoulder of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia last October. Her car had run out of gas and 35-year-old veteran used the last of his money to help her get her car started.

Touched by Bobbitt’s kindness, McClure’s 39-year-old boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, set up a GoFundMe page dedicated to helping Bobbitt get back on his feet. The internet was similarly moved by his generosity and the story immediately went viral, spawning national headlines and television appearances on shows including “Good Morning America.”

In the end, nearly 14,000 people donated a total of $402,706, which amounted to about $360,000 after GoFundMe’s fees. Despite the campaign, Bobbitt revealed he was still living on the streets and fighting to claim the money raised for him.

Bobbitt estimated he only received around $75,000 worth of the donated money, prompting him to take legal action against the couple.

He sued, accusing D’Amico and McClure of mismanaging the donations and fraud for keeping the fundraising money for themselves.In an interview with WPVI, Bobbitt said they used it for shopping sprees, gambling and extravagant trips.

A Burlington County judge on Thursday ordered the remaining funds be moved from McClure and D’Amico’s personal accounts within 24 hours and that they fully account for all of the money raised by September 10.

“I wish it didn’t come to this. I hate that it came to this,” Bobbitt told the news station. “I always felt like I was in a weird situation. I didn’t want to be pressuring to get a lawyer or do anything because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.”

The couple has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing, alternatively claiming that Bobbitt spent $25,000 on drugs in less than two weeks, in addition to paying overdue legal bills and sending money to his family.

They also purchased Bobbitt a camper with the money and parked it on property owned by McClure’s family, but D’Amico in June told him to leave the property.