The Ford government plans to appeal after an Ontario court downvotes Bill 124

Laws limiting public sector wages violate Canada's charter, the ruling said

The Ford government plans to appeal an Ontario court decision that overturned a law limiting wage increases for public sector workers, known as Bill 124.

A spokesman for Attorney General Doug Downey told CBC News the province is reviewing the decision and the intention is to appeal.

A decision released Tuesday from the High Court said the Act Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You can find the full verdict at the bottom of this story.

The measure, said the ruling, "is not a reasonable limitation of rights that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society under the s.1 charter."

Groups representing several hundred thousand public sector employees challenged the constitutionality of a 2019 law that capped wage increases for employees of the Ontario Public Service as well as wider public sector workers to one percent per year.

Judge Markus Koehnen said the law violated the applicant's rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, in what he called "substantial interference".

As part of the decision, Koehnen said Ontario had not explained why it needed to violate its constitutional right to impose wage caps while at the same time providing withholding taxes or the return of license plate stickers more than 10 times greater than the savings from wage-restraint measures.

Koehnen added he was "alarmed" by the appeals court's decision that "judges should not see themselves as finance ministers." However, he said he was bound by a decision by Canada's Supreme Court that guaranteed the constitutional right to collective bargaining.

As a result, the measure is "null and void," Koehnen said.

The judge also said Ontario was free to take a position in collective bargaining that it could pay no more than a one percent increase in wages. Conversely, it appears that Ontario is reluctant to take the position because it could lead to a strike, the ruling said.

"As stated, the right to strike is constitutionally protected," Koehnen wrote. "While it is inconvenient, the right to strike is part of a free and democratic society."

Do not appeal the decision, the group informed the province

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), one of the applicants in the case, tweeted that they were pleased with the decision.

"This decision validates workers' right to free and fair bargaining," the OSSTF tweeted. Teachers are currently in talks for a new contract with the government and OSSTF president Karen Littlewood said she hopes this round sees free and fair collective bargaining.

The Ontario Elementary Teachers' Federation also tweeted in support of the decision.

The Ontario Labor Federation (OFL) tweeted a graphic reading: "Victory." Steven Barrett, an OFL lawyer and worker in the wider public sector, said the decision was "total justification" for the union.

The Ontario Nurses Association tweeted in reaction to the news, "Nurses demand government respects court decision." The group added it would reopen contracts affected by Bill 124.

In a statement following the decision, NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said, "My message to Ford is simple: don't appeal this decision."

Tabuns called the decision a "triumph", saying it did "incalculable damage to our precious public service."

Liberal interim leader John Fraser also said in a statement, "Doug Ford needs to accept the court's decision."

Fraser added that news of the decision came the same day that the Office of Financial Accountability announced that the province spent less than $859 million on health over the past year.

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