Ford threatens to use notwithstanding clause to override court ruling

On Monday September 10th, Justice Edward Belobaba ruled Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, unconstitutional. Bill 5 is the controversial bill that would nearly halve council from 47 to 25 in the middle of the 2018 election.

Later that Monday at 2pm Premier Doug Ford took an unprecedented step and vowed to amend the Better Local Government Act to include the Notwithstanding Clause in a new bill titled “Efficient Local Government Act.” Prior to this week, an Ontarian provincial government has never included this clause to bypass a court ruling – it is seen as the “nuclear” option of our constitution that has been used only a handful times across the country.

This clause would allow Premier Ford to bypass Charter Rights and Freedoms in Section 2 and 7-15. In short, the clause allows Ford and the Progressive-Conservatives to suspend our Constitutional rights in order to ensure that Toronto city council would stay at 25 councillors.

The Notwithstanding Clause suspends sections that include freedom of thought, religion, expression, association, peaceful assembly, belief, and the right to life, liberty, unreasonable search and seizure, and other Charter items that are cherished by Canadians. The clause allows the legislation to be free from judicial review or challenge for up to five years.

If Efficient Local Government Act passes it will make future uses of the clause much easier – other bills that infringe on your Charter Rights and Freedoms will be easier passed. The Notwithstanding Clause can lead to bills that infringe on your freedom of practicing your religion, your right to not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment, and your right to be equally treated before and under the law.

Our judicial system, which includes the Supreme Court of Canada and its judges, are integral to upholding our Constitutional rights. Ontario’s democracy consists of three branches – the Executive (the Premier and their cabinet), the Legislative (the elected Members of Provincial Parliament), and the Judicial. Ideally, these work in tandem with each other to ensure our democratic and constitutional rights and freedoms.

The three branches should have equal power – however, with a majority government, the Legislative and the Executive branches effectively work as one. Therefore, without a healthy Judiciary, the government works without any checks or balances.

Casual uses of the Notwithstanding Clause allow governments to trample on our constitutional rights in favour of political gain. The careful review of our bills is integral to our democracy and democratic process – we must stand up against Ford’s glib use of the Notwithstanding Clause. The ramifications of this can be severe.

Childcare is still crucial for women’s participation in the workforce

On the evening of June 7th, Ontario voted in a majority Progressive Conservative government with Doug Ford as Premier. For many supporters of affordable childcare, the $15 minimum wage, and accessible pharma and dental care, the election of Premier-elect Ford left them questioning the possibility on their causes.

For many it seemed like a missed opportunity – Ontario could finally have and reap the benefits of an affordable childcare plan similar to Quebec.

A couple of months ago I was invited to speak to a large group of fifth graders. I spoke about the provincial election and asked the group why it was important for their parents to have access to childcare – many responded so both their parents to go to work. When I asked if they thought it was a women’s issue – one astute student raised her hand and said that “most moms stay at home so it isn’t fair to women.”

There you have it – ten year olds who believe that the responsibility of taking care of children often falls on mothers and recognize the importance of childcare for their moms to go to work.

This fifth grader’s answer happens to be backed up by data. Research shows affordable childcare leads to a dramatic increase in women in the workforce. For instance, once Quebec adopted subsidized universal childcare for all ages in 1997, women’s participation raised from 3% lower than the national average to 3% higher than the national average by 2014. Not only did the program pay for itself due to the increase in income, payroll, and other taxes, but studies revealed both provincial and federal governments are receiving more than a 100% of the program’s cost.

As of now, the median cost for an infant and a toddler childcare in Toronto is $36,000 per year – a price unaffordable for families of most economic backgrounds. The PC plan offers a rebate covering up to $6,750 per child and does nothing to address the lack of spaces available. Often parents have to spend months on a waitlist to find appropriate daycare or travel far outside their neighbourhoods to access a space.

The incoming Ford government is going to be a setback for childcare advocates. However, the NDP as the official opposition can attempt to pass progressive childcare bills if they work alongside organizations like the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.

Moving forward, we must not take this setback as a reason to give up for the next four years. We must organize alongside our neighbours, families, and friends to lobby for programs that will make our province more equal. We must write and call our MPPs, regardless of party affiliation, to make it known that we demand gender equity. Childcare is not a luxury – women cannot wait another four years to afford and access childcare.

World Health Organization calls for the elimination of trans fats in foods

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a global strategy called “REPLACE” that will guide countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their food supply by 2023. “This initiative is meant to lead countries in establishing legislation to eliminate the trans fats,” as stated by the director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, Dr. Francesco Branca.

REPLACE stands for Review dietary sources, Promote use of healthier fats, Legislate, Assess changes, Create awareness and Enforce. The REPLACE plan is the first time the WHO is proposing a call-to-action on the removal of a chronic disease factor.

Chronic diseases, or non-communicable diseases, are a combined result of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors such as dietary intake. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide.

Artificial trans fats are made when vegetable oil hardens in a process called partial hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated oils have been added to foods since the early twentieth century. They prolong shelf life and enhance the flavour and texture of many foods, including commercial baked goods, fried foods and snack foods, and are used in products such as vegetable shortening, stick margarine, coffee creamer and ready-to-use frostings. The intake of trans fats raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol” and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Industry produced trans fats differ from naturally occurring trans fats found in dairy and beef. No evidence of harmful effects has been identified from these food sources.

Last year, the Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, announced the final step to phase out the production of partially hydrogenated oils in all foods sold in Canada. The ban will come into effect September 12, 2018 to allow enough time for food manufacturers to find suitable alternatives.