December 8, 2022

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Doug Ford let Justin Trudeau off the hook when he backed down on the however clause

Doug Ford let Justin Trudeau off the hook when he backed down on the however clause

Doug Ford’s U-turn on using the however clause helped the premier keep away from a public relations (and presumably province-wide) catastrophe, however in Ottawa it additionally spared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from having to take motion to match his rhetoric.

Within the Home of Commons final week, Trudeau mentioned it was “mistaken” for the Ontario premier to invoke the however clause pre-emptively, and “mistaken” to disclaim collective bargaining rights earlier than that bargaining course of had reached an deadlock. “Suspending basic rights of Canadians with out penalties,” the prime minister mentioned, “issues me.”

On the cellphone final Wednesday, Trudeau urged Ford to reverse course. Return to the negotiating desk, convey again to work laws if you need to, however that is too far, sources say the prime minister advised the premier. “We don’t wish to be ready the place we’ve got to take a look at how we are able to cease you from doing this,” one supply recounted him saying.

Trudeau referred to as a number of union leaders and advised them they’d his full assist. He publicly referred to as on “peculiar Canadians” to struggle again in opposition to the pre-emptive use of Part 33 of the Constitution of Rights, the clause that permits governments to enact laws however sure protected freedoms within the Structure.

“It could be significantly better if as an alternative of the federal authorities having to weigh in and say, ‘We actually shouldn’t do that provincial governments,’ it needs to be Canadians saying, ‘Maintain on a minute, you’re suspending my proper to collective bargaining?’” the prime minister urged Friday. “The Constitution of Rights and Freedoms can not grow to be a suggestion.”

To the premier’s shock, Canadians did rise up.

Ford, below what gave the impression to be the specter of a normal strike from private and non-private sector unions, backtracked Monday. He pledged to rescind Invoice 28, which invoked the however clause to ban strikes and impose a brand new collective settlement on faculty board workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Workers (CUPE).

Polling by Abacus Knowledge over the weekend instructed most Ontarians — together with mother and father with school-aged kids — blamed the Ford authorities for varsity closures, most disagreed with using the however clause, and the overwhelming majority felt the province ought to return to the bargaining desk.

A struggle that gave the impression to be a clampdown in opposition to CUPE — a union that has been a thorn along with Ford’s authorities, protesting cuts throughout the general public service, together with within the health-care sector — grew to become an existential menace that raised alarm bells throughout your complete nation, mobilizing and reinvigorating the labour motion.

“The proper to strike is a fully important a part of free and honest collective bargaining, and certainly not will Canada’s unions permit any premier to take that straight away,” Bea Bruske, president of the three-million member Canadian Labour Congress, advised reporters Monday.

“There isn’t a query that this identical tactic might have been used right here once more in Ontario and in different provinces,” Unifor nationwide president Lana Payne mentioned. “You possibly can make certain that different conservative premiers have been watching this very carefully.”

Ford’s use of the however clause to ban a strike brought about alarm in Quebec, too. There, utilizing the clause isn’t fairly taboo — the province utilized it to strip spiritual rights with Invoice 21 and language and equality rights with Invoice 96 — however utilizing it in opposition to collective bargaining rights struck a nerve.

Editorials piled up, calling on the federal authorities to do one thing. If Ford might use the however clause on this vogue, what value did the Constitution have? Might governments now droop Constitution rights each time they have been inconvenienced by their presence?

“We’re our choices,” the prime minister advised reporters.

However there aren’t many — and Ottawa doesn’t wish to use them.

A reference to the Supreme Courtroom on the pre-emptive use of the clause is one possibility. It’s dangerous. There isn’t a assure the highest court docket would restrict its use.

Sources additionally trace that the federal authorities’s personal authorized recommendation is to not open up a brand new authorized flank whereas Invoice 21 winds its means by the courts.

On Monday, the Quebec legislation was earlier than that province’s Courtroom of Enchantment, the place legal professionals argued the pre-emptive use of the however clause creates a regime that isn’t topic to the rule of legislation, and goes in opposition to the spirit of the Constitution.

Trudeau has beforehand mentioned Ottawa will intervene in opposition to Invoice 21 when the case reaches the Supreme Courtroom.

The opposite possibility is the federal energy of disallowance, with which Ottawa might invoke its potential to invalidate provincial legal guidelines. It hasn’t been used since 1943 and isn’t seen as a sensible possibility by Trudeau’s workforce.

As an alternative, it floated the thought of introducing a parliamentary movement that might denounce the pre-emptive use of the clause and promise the federal authorities gained’t use it. But it surely’s toothless and unlikely to obtain unanimous consent, with opposition doubtless from the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives, too. Their chief, Pierre Poilievre, sidestepped questions final week, however lots of his MPs are on the document saying it needs to be as much as provinces to resolve the right way to use the however clause and for voters to guage them accordingly.

A Commons movement might serve the Liberals’ short-term pursuits of drawing out distinction between Poilievre’s freedom-fighting persona and his unwillingness to guard Constitution rights, however in the long term this can be removed from the kind of powerful motion Liberals anticipate from their very own chief. By not talking with a united voice, Parliament might do extra hurt than good.

The prime minister have to be relieved Ford reversed course so he didn’t must.

Althia Raj is an Ottawa-based nationwide politics columnist for the Star. Comply with her on Twitter: @althiaraj

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