Both outside and inside, Osgoode Hall, the law courts in downtown Toronto, has the materials and harmonious proportions of a building built before mass production sunk its teeth into every aspect of construction. Outside it is clad with soft yellow and red brick, tall hand made windows pierce the walls and inside the foyer is graced with columns and bold black and white tiles on the floor. Friends of Lansdowne were in courtroom ten.
Visually, the courtroom said it all, twenty-five ordinary looking people on one side, three lawyers for the city and the developers on the other. It couldn’t be clearer. Nor could the challenge for the judges be clearer once you listened to the lawyers present their cases for the people versus the consortia. It all came down to this.
Can the courts protect the public treasury when elected officials will not?
The presentations made it very clear; it was buddy politics versus the law. Common sense says you can’t cancel a competitive procurement process to give away public land, charge no rent, assume all the environmental and heritage liabilities, and protect the private consortium from football failure, and argue this adds up to responsible government.
This is an important case. If the appeal is upheld, it means that all municipal councils in future will have to be more cautious about cancelling competitive competition in favour of non-competitive deals. If the appeal is lost, the case law will support ‘buddy politics’ no matter what normal procurement laws require.
The week before the case was heard I held a fundraising evening, Occupy the Elmdale, for the Friends of Lansdowne.