Ontario Premier Doug Ford skips Question Period and avoids questions on Emergency Act


The application for judicial review, which is due to be heard on November 1, argues that the summons to the inquiry “purports to violate parliamentary privilege by attempting to compel testimony”

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TORONTO – Doug Ford’s government argues that “irreparable harm will occur” if a subpoena from the Premier of Ontario to testify at the Emergencies Act inquiry is not overturned, according to court documents.

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In an application for judicial review filed with the Federal Court on Tuesday, Ontario’s attorney general cited parliamentary privilege as the reason Ford and then-Solicitor General Sylvia Jones cannot testify at the trial. hearing taking place in Ottawa.

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The Emergency Public Order Commission summoned Ford and Jones to testify on November 10 on Monday, the court’s motion said.

“Irreparable harm will occur if a reprieve is not granted,” the request states.

“Constitutional privilege, which the Supreme Court has confirmed is of central importance to the entire Canadian legal system, will be breached and the claim will become moot.”

The inquiry examines the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to end so-called Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa and Windsor, Ont., last winter.

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The judicial review application, which is due to be heard on November 1, argued that the summonses to the inquiry “aim to breach parliamentary privilege by attempting to compel testimony” from Ford and Jones, who is now the Minister of Provincial health.

“Parliamentary privilege prevents members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from being compelled to testify in any proceedings while the Legislative Assembly is in session and for 40 days before and after each session,” the request states. “This includes times when the House is adjourned.”

  1. Ontario Premier Doug Ford was summoned by the Emergencies Act Commission to testify “voluntarily”.

    Summons issued to compel Ford to testify at Emergencies Act investigation

  2. Doug Ford refuses to appear before the Emergenics Law Commission.

    Chris Selley: Prime Minister Ford, stop hiding and take a stand during inquiry into convoy protests

An affidavit filed with the application for judicial review shows that inquest counsel requested on Oct. 18 to have Ford and Jones appear before the commission to testify.

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The commission wants to know why the province declined an invitation to participate in a “tripartite” meeting with the City of Ottawa and the federal government on how to resolve the weeks-long occupation by the Freedom Convoy.

“The evidence so far is that Premier Ford told Mayor Watson the table was a waste of time. Why?” commission counsel Gabriel Poliquin wrote in an email to Darrell Kloeze, a provincial crown attorney.

“The other levels of government don’t seem to think so. What is Ontario’s perspective?

Kloeze replied that he would seek instructions on how to proceed, but warned Poliquin that Ford and Jones could not be compelled to testify due to parliamentary privilege. A few days later, Kloeze refused Ford and Jones’ request for voluntary testimony.

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“We continue to be of the view that their testimony is not necessary to this commission, as it has a mandate to investigate the need for the declaration of a federal emergency,” the Crown prosecutor wrote.

The court motion also contains emails between the commission and the province’s attorneys that show the inquiry wanted to hear from Ford and Jones dating back to September 19.

On October 17, Ford told reporters he had not been asked to testify at the inquest.

Calls for Ford to testify at the inquiry intensified earlier Tuesday when the prime minister showed up for question period as the legislature resumed sitting for the first time in six weeks.

NDP MP Joel Harden, who represents an Ottawa riding that was plagued by protests last winter, said the prime minister must testify at the inquiry.

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“I’m not convinced that the prime minister is saying, ‘It’s not my problem.’ It’s your problem, you’re the premier of the province,” Harden said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford owes it to Ontarians to appear before the inquiry and that he should follow the example of federal politicians waiving confidentiality to testify at the proceeding.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the Prime Minister was too busy to show up for Question Period on Tuesday. Jones wasn’t in Question Period either.

Documents filed with the inquest show that when City of Ottawa officials asked the province for resources to help put down the protests, the province ordered them to deal with the OPP and that Jones saw it as a law enforcement problem.

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Calandra reiterated, both during question period and to reporters afterwards, that the province believes the inquiry is a policing matter, not a political one.

“This is a federal investigation into the federal government’s use of the Emergency Act,” he said, adding that two senior provincial officials will testify.

Senior OPP officials testified and the province provided hundreds of pages of documents to the inquest.

Ian Stedman, professor of public policy at York University, said parliamentary privilege is an ancient privilege that protects parliamentarians from scrutiny by the courts.

The Court, through judicial review, will determine whether parliamentary privilege exists in a set of facts and context specific to this case, Stedman said.

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“If the court recognizes that there is a privilege in the context that you assert, they are not allowed to go and question the breadth or depth of that privilege,” he said.

He said the province should argue that publicly disclosing details of how it handled the ongoing crisis would hamper the proper functioning of Parliament.

There is another type of parliamentary privilege that the province could enforce in court: collective privilege.

“It’s the collective privilege of the house to essentially protect its members from having to testify in court or whatever while the house is sitting,” Stedman said.

Steven Chaplin, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa who worked for more than a decade as senior legal adviser to the House of Commons, said he thinks invoking parliamentary privilege will work for Ford.

“They have that privilege and the courts should basically overturn the summons,” he said.

In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld this privilege, which applies to courts and investigations, Chaplin said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens are set to testify at the inquest.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 25, 2022.


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