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politics

Etobicoke York Councillors to Dalton McGuinty: Actually, We Are Irrelevant

Eight councillors proclaim their own illegitimacy by asking the province to set aside last week's council decision on transit.

Etobicoke McGuinty Letter

Last week, frustrated by the results of a major transit vote that didn’t go his way, Mayor Rob Ford told reporters that it didn’t matter—council’s decision and the entire meeting were “irrelevant.”

Yesterday, at least eight of those councillors agreed with him.

As reported by John Lorinc in the Globe and Mail, those councillors signed a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty, asking him to hold a free vote at Queen’s Park on the vexed question of whether we should build subways instead of light rail. Put another way, they asked him to disregard the vote of council and have the province make the decision for us.

In short, they proclaimed themselves illegitimate.

It’s one thing for elected representatives to contend that poor decisions were made due to a lack of pertinent information, a climate that dampened honest debate, or other circumstances that limited their ability to discharge their duties properly. It’s quite another for one group of councillors to say that a vote by council should be set aside because they disagree with the majority on policy grounds—because they simply aren’t on board with the outcome. Because then why should any councillors get to decide anything, ever?

Councillors either have power, or they don’t. They are either chosen by their constituents to make decisions, or they aren’t. And this applies either to all councillors or to none of them.

It is a necessary effect of representative democracy that not all representatives will agree with the democratically made decisions of the legislative bodies in which they serve. (Just ask the NDP in Ottawa or the Tories at Queen’s Park.) Asking the province to set aside last week’s decision is more or less equivalent to asking the province to babysit us, because we are conceding that we can’t manage ourselves. Any maybe some councillors really do think that. But then we have to ask: why on earth did they run for office?

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