NDP denied in emergency debate request over Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause

The deputy Speaker of the House of Commons has denied the NDP’s request to hold an emergency debate regarding Ontario Premier Doug Ford‘s decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause.

The clause gives governments the ability to pass a law overriding parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term. It’s supposed to be a rarely used piece of legislation, but provinces have tried to invoke it multiple times in the last two years.

NDP MP Matthew Green said he proposed an emergency debate on the Ontario government’s “authoritarian use” of the notwithstanding clause on “some of the lowest paid public sector workers” in the province.

“This is an attack on the Charter of Rights of not just the CUPE workers, but all workers across the country,” said Green. “The government’s use under Doug Ford for the notwithstanding clause, preempting any kind of negotiations, shows the lack of faith that they have in this process.”

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Green said Ford is a liar and that he is misleading Ontarians on the impact of invoking the notwithstanding clause.

The deputy Speaker said he doesn’t believe the criteria has been met for an emergency debate but didn’t specify why he thinks that is, and is not obligated to give his reasons when refusing a request.

The NDP put forward a unanimous consent motion on the issue Wednesday afternoon as well. In it, they asked the House of Commons to “reject any intervention aimed at restricting the collective rights of workers to freely negotiate their working conditions.”

The party also tried to get MPs to back a call to “condemn the use of the notwithstanding clause to destroy collective bargaining rights by Conservative Premier Doug Ford and the government of Ontario.”

The motion failed, however, when it did not get unanimous consent from MPs.

Read more:

Trudeau calls Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause ‘wrong’

The request comes as the Ontario government continues to debate Bill 28. The legislation would force 55,000 education support workers into a four-year contract, prohibit a strike for those years, and — thanks to the notwithstanding clause — prevent the union from invoking a Charter challenge.

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The decision has been condemned by multiple politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called it “wrong.”

“I know that collective bargaining negotiations are sometimes difficult, but it has to happen,” Trudeau told reporters.

“The suspension of people’s rights is something that you should only do in the most exceptional circumstances, and I really hope that all politicians call out the overuse of the notwithstanding clause to suspend people’s rights and freedoms.”

In his letter calling for the emergency debate, Green also condemned Ontario’s invocation of the clause, saying the move “explicitly undermined the negotiation process and has undercut the ability of workers to exercise their right to collective bargain and their right to strike.”

“It further imposes disproportionate punitive measures for those workers who will take action to defend their rights,” Green added.

Click to play video: 'Breaking down the Notwithstanding Clause'

Breaking down the Notwithstanding Clause

Ford’s government has pushed back on criticisms, saying the use of the notwithstanding clause is necessary to prevent legal challenges which “may create destabilizing uncertainty for students and families.”

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Green, however, called the move “another step” in a “disturbing trend” of provinces being “increasingly willing” to override the constitutional rights of their citizens.

Ontario’s premier first invoked the notwithstanding clause in June of last year, in a bid to restore parts of the Election Finances Act that had previously been declared unconstitutional.

Ford also threatened to use the clause in 2018 to slash Toronto city council seats, but ultimately did not invoke it.

In June of this year, Quebec used the notwithstanding clause to cover an entire bill related to language requirements — two articles of which were later suspended due to concerns about access to justice. The province also used the notwithstanding clause in relation to its religious symbols law, Bill 21.

Should the Speaker accept Green’s request to hold an emergency debate, the conversation will be held in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

— with files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly, Colin D’Mello, and The Canadian Press

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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