] Police escort a protester away in handcuffs from the public gallery at Queen’s Park Thursday as MPPs debate the Ford government’s plan to use the “notwithstanding” clause to slash the size of Toronto city council. (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star) As MPPs returned to Queen’s Park Wednesday, the proceedings quickly descended into chaos with two protesters — one a woman in her 70s — handcuffed by security in the public viewing galleries. Despite the chaos, the legislation passed first reading later in the afternoon. Politicians were back almost two weeks ahead of schedule for an emergency session so Ford’s fledgling Progressive Conservative government could reintroduce legislation that an Ontario Superior Court justice ruled was unconstitutional. The Better Local Government Act, struck down Monday by Justice Edward Belobaba for violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, reduces the number of Toronto city councillors from 47 to 25. It was tabled again Wednesday afternoon as the Efficient Local Government Act and Ford, who never mentioned cutting council during the June 7 provincial election campaign, will use the Charter’s “notwithstanding” clause for the first time in Ontario history. That will ensure the bill can withstand any other Charter challenge. Although the New Democrats launched a raucous protest — as most of them were kicked out of the legislature, one by one, for banging on their desks — the legislation passed first reading 63-17. No Tories broke ranks, with only the few remaining New Democrats, the Liberals, and the lone Green MPP voting against it. Thanks to the Tories’ majority, it is expected to pass within two weeks. The deadline for candidates entering the Oct. 22 city election will be two days after it receives royal assent — so likely by Oct. 1. But there could be a political cost for the new government. Davis, a revered Tory titan and instrumental in the repatriation of the Constitution, jolted the debate by criticizing his party’s use of Section 33 of the Charter. “The notwithstanding provision has, understandably, rarely been used, because of the primacy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians,” Davis told TVO’s Steve Paikin. “That it might now be used regularly to assert the dominance of any government or elected politician over the rule of law or the legitimate jurisdiction of our courts of law was never anticipated or agreed to,” added Davis, who led the province from 1971 to 1985. The controversial clause gives the provinces and Ottawa the power to overrule Charter rights conflicting with a government legislative agenda. Ford, a rookie premier, has warned he “won’t be shy” about invoking Section 33 of the Charter again to prevent judges from derailing his plans. Earlier Wednesday, he boasted that “the people” are with him. “What Canada needs and Ontario needs and Toronto needs is democracy,” said Ford, noting “2.3 million people voted for the PC party.” “This is about preserving the will of the people. This is about preserving democracy.” An unknown woman is taken away in handcuffs on Sept. 12, 2018 ahead of the reintroduction of Premier Doug Ford's Bill 5, which will cut Toronto council to 25 seats from 47. The bill is expected to be passed when Ford invokes the Charter's "notwithstanding" clause. The premier, who has been accused of acting unilaterally against Toronto council for partisan reasons, did not attempt to disguise his motives under questioning from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “The leader of the NDP is here to protect her crony buddies: Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, Gord Perks,” he said, referring to left-leaning Toronto councillors. Horwath shook her head and said Ford, who lost the 2014 mayoral race to John Tory, was “obsessed” with city council and “didn’t even have the guts to campaign” on the issue. When guards handcuffed and removed a woman, from the public gallery, a visibly disgusted former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, the MPP for Don Valley West, shouted: “Come on, really?” Some Tory ministers and MPPs could be seen squirming in their seats as Speaker Ted Arnott cleared the public galleries after people jeered at Ford. Horwath later told reporters “it was a shocking day — to watch grandmas and grandpas literally be led out of the gallery in handcuffs,” while also calling Ford “an out-of-control premier.” The NDP leader, herself ejected by Arnott when Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark tabled the bill, said Ford attacking city councillors during question period “just shows the pettiness of this premier … he’s not doing this for any other reason but for his own little, petty vendetta.” Toronto’s contested municipal wards Under the Tories’ new legislation, Toronto city council would be cut nearly in half, from a planned 47 wards to 25. “Is that what leadership is all about? Is that what the people of this province from one end to the other want to see their premier do?” Attorney General Caroline Mulroney defended the decisions to appeal the ruling and invoke the notwithstanding clause. “We believe that the Better Local Government Act is constitutional. That is why our government is appealing the judge’s ruling and that we are seeking a stay in the decision,” Mulroney told reporters, adding the Constitution “makes it clear that the province has exclusive jurisdiction over municipalities, and Section 33 of the Charter confirms the paramountcy of the legislature.” Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he respects the public and NDP protests, blaming Ford for having “detonated a constitutional bomb, playing politics with people’s Charter rights. Such extraordinary actions will lead to extraordinary responses.” The province, which is also facing a legal challenge from Greenpeace Canada over its decision to end the cap-and-trade system, has now announced it will hold public consultations on the issue.