Push back criticism has surfaced in social media today (Friday June 10) regarding a proposed Code Of Conduct for City Council. This is one of the things they will be discussing at next week’s meeting, the first for newly elected councilor Bev Tripp.
In the comment that began discussion words like censorship, fascist and dictator were used so obviously someone is unhappy. It’s understandable that criticisms like this show up when any moves to impose order (also seen as reigning in argument and behaviour) are made with a council so enmeshed in the internal struggles this one has exhibited. And with a new councilor, who is widely believed to be aligned with a particular lone side in this, some may see this policy as an attempt to head off even more argument about decisions and matters of the past.
It may pass but it also might not achieve what some think is its desired effect.
Think about this: Politics is one area where what someone says, how, where, when and why they say it matters. Words are the primary tool a politician has to promote or demote ideas and ultimately effect change. We want them to have brains and ears too but from their point of view a quick mind and verbal ability are highly valued. Any rules or regulations that directly impact this, their mouths and pens, will be difficult to get politicians to completely buy into and adhere to.
As I read the draft I’m wondering what actual power it has. Near the end it says “Members elected to Council shall be requested to sign a Member statement affirming they have read and understand this Code, and that they agree to conduct themselves in accordance with it.
Upon adoption of this Code of Conduct. and thereafter at the beginning of each term.
Council Members will be required to sign two copies of the Code (one for the Member and
one for the CAO’s office. for Corporation Records) to each other . . .” If I were a councilor who did not agree with this Code of Conduct what would happen to me if I chose not to sign it? Does a municipal government have the power to pass a rule like this upon its own members? I thought council was a creature of the Province and only the Province could do things like ‘punish’ an elected official for not going along with a regulation and then only regulations that the Province had imposed on them. Of course I could be wrong, I’m not a political scholar.
And let’s say I, as that hypothetical councilor, did sign it but soon after realized that I did not agree with it and felt it was fettering me in the best execution of my position as an elected representative of those who voted for me. So I decide that the first time I think it works against what I see as me doing my job to the best of my abilities I brazenly violate some part of it. Because I feel it’s the right thing to do. What will happen to me? “City Council may Impose sanctions on a Member whose conduct does not comply with this Code, including, but not limited to a motion of censure.”
What does that, motion of censure, mean in the real world? In some cases I’ve found it appears that council has the power to strip me, a member, including the mayor, of my membership in committees. To limit what a councilor can do in service to the city as well as when and where also. But can they keep a councilor out of a meeting? Take away the seat from an elected official? I rather suspect not. So if I’m right a ‘rogue’ councilor could thumb their nose at the rest of council as long as they didn’t care about being left out of committees and other business.
And if I’m correct that means this will likely create a secondary sh*t storm consuming the attention and resources of city hall as they try to enforce rules on the battleground that council chambers can become. But then again I’m not a politician or scholar. Popcorn or Peanuts anyone?
The agendas are available from the City’s website on this page. If you were just interested in seeing the section regarding this policy you can read that in the document below.