City Council's Sanction Hearings & Code of Conduct: Change Is Needed

Some thoughts ahead of Wednesday’s Council meeting where we will discuss the Integrity Commissioner’s report on recent Code of Conduct complaints.

The complaints to be considered came from public citizens, not other Councillors.  Our process requires Council to hear and consider those complaints. So I will participate in the meeting, but I truly believe our time is better spent on other matters.

The Council Code of Conduct was crafted to establish common expectations around Councillor behaviour, and accountability for that behaviour.  Matters like how Councillors manage their budgets, what gifts they accept, and holding information confidential are all rightfully part of this Code.

The Code also speaks to respectful interactions and responsible communication. Notably, that Councillors’ communications accurately reflect Council deliberations and decisions. 

Engaging with constituents in normal political discourse is not something the code of conduct should govern, and not something council should pass judgement on.  It is appropriate to challenge the positions of Council members.  And to use creativity and modern communication tools to engage the public.

We as elected officials don’t need a Commissioner to protect us from mutual criticism.  Nor should we be in a position to pass judgement on each other.

Holding Council meetings to discuss particular styles of political discourse does not meet the threshold of accountability that should be prescribed in a Code of Conduct.  I will work towards refinement of our Code to avoid a recurrence of a meeting like this.

At the end of the day, City Council members are best able to represent their Ward when they collaborate with each other.  We all strive to find that balance, to disagree agreeably.  If we don’t, we may not get the support for things that matter for our Ward. 

It is voters that should determine whether the style of communication a Councillor uses is appropriate.  And effective.  Not Council.  And not an officer of Council.

As always, your input and feedback is appreciated and welcomed.

Tim