QUEEN’S PARK — Kristyn Wong-Tam, the Ontario NDP Attorney General critic, is condemning the Ford government for its reported plan to take full control of the selection of the next chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
“Ontarians should be alarmed by Doug Ford’s latest move to interfere with democratic process and bring the selection of the province’s chief justice under the sole purview of Doug Ford’s Attorney General, despite the rightful outcry from judges and legal experts,” Wong-Tam said.
“People in Ontario deserve to have confidence in the independence of our judiciary. Yet the Ford government is once again demonstrating its disregard for democratic principles and creating a chief justice selection process that appears biased and political. That’s far from what it should be: independent and transparent.”
The process of appointing Ontario’s chief justice has traditionally been overseen by the outgoing chief justice. As reported by the Toronto Star, judges and legal experts in Ontario are ringing the alarms about the government’s attempt to change the selection process, calling the move “inappropriate” and “authoritarian.”
The Ontario NDP has been sounding the alarm on the Ford government’s moves to inappropriately influence the judicial appointment process for years. In November 2019, the Attorney General admitted in an interview that he wanted to be able to pick judges who reflect his personal values. In February 2021, he began that process with Bill 245, which undercut the authority of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, and which the NDP warned was a slippery slope in undermining public confidence in judicial independence.
“Doug Ford has been trampling Ontarians’ democratic rights for years,” said Wong-Tam. “He has interfered in Toronto’s municipal elections, weakened democratic institutions by allowing minority rule for ‘strong mayor’ powers, abusing the notwithstanding clause, and allowing his minister to hand-pick the heads of regional councils.
“On top of this, he has already done lasting damage to access to justice in Ontario by cutting Legal Aid funding and worsening historic backlogs at Ontario’s tribunals by understaffing adjudicators and appointing his unqualified friends and PC donors.”
Wong-Tam said Ford attacking judicial independence would be another attack on Ontario’s democracy.
“Ford must immediately change course and allow the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee and Ontario’s outgoing chief justice to govern the appointment process,” said Wong-Tam.