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Trudeau, in call with Ford, says use of notwithstanding clause is ‘wrong and inappropriate’

The Canadian Press

Ford’s office, meanwhile, said the premier told the prime minister that allowing education workers to strike would have an “unacceptable” effect on students after two years of disruptions due to the pandemic.

“He also reiterated that Ontario is determined, if necessary, to pass legislation to keep classrooms open and ensure certainty and stability for parents and students now and in the future,” the readout provided by the province said.

The union representing the 55,000 affected education workers in Ontario said it still plans to hold a strike starting Friday and it will continue indefinitely, despite the looming legislation expected to pass Thursday that would make that illegal.

The legislation says the government intends to invoke the notwithstanding clause — which allows the legislature to override parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term — to keep the eventual law in force despite any potential constitutional challenges.

The Liberals have been critical of the Ford government this week, with Trudeau previously describing the legislation as outright “wrong.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trudeau said his government was looking at its options to respond to Ford’s use of the notwithstanding clause.

He made the brief comment in French outside the House of Commons moments after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for more action from the federal government.

“We’re seeing right now a clear attack on workers, on vulnerable workers and on workers’ rights. There has to be a response,” Singh told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re open to any solution to be put on the table and to evaluate if it will work or not and if it will help workers’ rights.”

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti didn’t bite on a question earlier Wednesday about what options might be on the table.

“I’m not going to discuss options here,” he said before a Liberal caucus meeting, though there are “a number of different things one might do.”

Lametti said the pre-emptive use of the clause is “very serious” and “anti-democratic.”

“It guts Canadian democracy,” he said. “It means the Charter doesn’t exist.”

An NDP MP, Matthew Green, called on the House to hold an emergency debate on the issue Wednesday afternoon.

He called Ford’s government “authoritarian” and accused the premier of being a “liar” who is misleading Ontarians about the impacts of the choice to use the notwithstanding clause.

“This particular case could present a precedent for provincial governments across the country that might seek to use this to further undermine the collective agreement rights of workers,” Green told reporters earlier in the day.

The House deputy Speaker denied the request, saying the conditions for an emergency debate weren’t met.

Green also called on the House to unanimously condemn the Ford legislation on Wednesday afternoon, but some Conservative MPs voted down his motion.

Trudeau and others have called on federal Conservatives to respond, but MPs on their way into a Conservative caucus meeting Wednesday morning declined to comment.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which is representing the workers, presented a counter-offer late Tuesday night in response to the imposed contract terms in the legislation but has not yet provided details about the proposal.

Ontario’s education minister has suggested that there won’t be much movement at the bargaining table this week and insisted that any new offer from the union must include cancelling the strike.


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