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Doug Ford’s controversial wage-cap law ruled unconstitutional

A court has struck down Premier Doug Ford’s controversial Bill 124, which limited most public sector workers in Ontario to annual pay increases of one per cent and has been blamed for an exodus of health-care workers during the pandemic.

A ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday found the wage restraint legislation passed in 2019 — before the emergence of COVID-19 — violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“I declare the act to be void and of no effect,” Justice Markus Koehnen wrote in an 80-page decision.

“On my view of the evidence, Ontario was not facing a situation in 2019 that justified an infringement on Charter rights,” he added.

“In addition, unlike other cases that have upheld wage restraint legislation, Bill 124 sets the wage cap at a rate below which employees were obtaining in free collective bargaining negotiations.”

The ruling was quickly applauded by unions that launched the court challenge against the bill, which did not apply to male-dominated fields such as police and firefighting.

“This is exactly the right decision,” said Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. “This again was an attack on women workers of the province, and we have proven that this was unconstitutional.”

She said the decision, coming on the heels of the government’s recent rescinding of a law that imposed a contract on CUPE school support staff and pre-emptively tried to ban them from striking, shows the government “has been proven wrong.”

“I think we just have to continue every time the government puts forward these types of legislation that take away our Charter rights — we have to step up and fight against them.”

It’s been a few “bad weeks now” for the government, she added.

The premier’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit was launched when dozens of unions went to court earlier this fall. The unions said the law violated a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees freedom of association.

“The courts have told us what we already knew, that Bill 124 was wrong,” said interim Liberal Leader John Fraser.

Collective bargaining is protected under the Charter following a 2007 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. Ontario government lawyers disputed the unions’ position that the legislation substantially interferes with collective bargaining.


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