08/20/2018 14:40 EDT | Updated 08/20/2018 14:50 EDT

Doug Ford Says He Won’t Cut Other City Councils, Defends Targeting Toronto

The city of Toronto is considering a legal challenge.

Justin Tang/CP
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario in Ottawa on Aug. 20, 2018.

TORONTO — As Toronto mulls a potential legal challenge against Ontario's decision to slash the size of the city's council, Premier Doug Ford has told politicians from other municipalities across the province that he has no plans to cut their governments.

Speaking at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's annual conference on Monday, Ford said he has been getting questions about whether the province will chop the size of other civic councils.

"No, we do not —I repeat — we do not have plans for similar legislation in our near future," Ford told the gathering in Ottawa.

The premier's remarks came as Toronto politicians and staff were meeting Monday to discuss whether to turn to the courts to oppose the legislation that will cut the number of city councillors from 47 to 25 ahead of a fall municipal election.

The Progressive Conservative government's legislation — known as Bill 5 — passed last week and aligns Toronto's ward map with federal ridings. Ford has said the move will help council make decisions and deliver services "more efficiently and effectively" and save taxpayers $25 million over four years.

The legislation also cancels planned elections for the head of council position in the regional municipalities of Muskoka, Peel, York and Niagara. Instead, the head of council in each region will be appointed.

Ford stressed that his time as a former Toronto councillor gave him insight into the problems of the city's government, noting that its challenges are unlike those of others in Ontario.

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"I would say that many of Toronto's issues are specific to Toronto," he said.

The city's legal team has filed a confidential report with advice on a potential court challenge on the issue, and the document is expected to be debated behind closed doors Monday.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the timing of the provincial legislation — coming before the Oct. 22 municipal election — has put the city in an unprecedented situation.

"The process by which this monumental change was made was wrong and unacceptable," he said.

"It is our duty to represent the people of Toronto and the best interests of this city at all times — and to make our position clear when we do not believe the actions of other levels of government are in our city's best interest."

Chris Young/CP
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on July 25, 2018.

Ford, who lost the 2014 Toronto mayoral race to Tory, stunned local politicians and residents last month when he announced the council-cutting plan, which was not part of his election platform.

The premier has said Toronto's council can debate a potential legal challenge if it wishes but noted that his government had already moved on the issue.

"They can talk about Bill 5 all they want," he said Friday. "At the end of the day, we made a decision to make government run more efficiently here in the city of Toronto."