There is a very good reason why the Town of Caledon has an Integrity Commissioner.
And it is no easy job being tasked with the wisdom of Solomon especially when political aspirations get in the way of reasonable judgements. “Here, you take the sword and cut the baby in half,” are not words sweet to the ears of politicians in the #metoo age.
In my view the Province suggested Municipal Councils also adopt Codes of Conduct because of so much bad behaviour, usually from developer interests interfering with fair play, but often just from inappropriate human bickering.
The Town of Caledon’s website states that “The purpose and intent of the (Town of Caledon) Council Code of Conduct is to establish standards of conduct for Members of Council in the individual conduct of their official duties.”
And in addition it states that “A written Code of Conduct helps to ensure that the members of Council share a common basis of acceptable conduct. These standards are designed to supplement the legislative parameters within which the members must operate. They are intended to enhance public confidence that the Town of Caledon’s elected and appointed officials operate from a basis of integrity, justice and courtesy.”
What is a valid discussion item is the detail behind each Municipal Code of Conduct. As is highlighted in tonight’s Town of Caledon Council Agenda, are there ambiguities in the Code that need to be addressed? What would make it easier for an Integrity Commissioner to do her or his job?
For example, if a local politician told the CAO of a Town to “F_Off” would that be a violation of a “workplace free from harassment and degrading language” policy? And what would be the consequences – mouth washed out with Sunlight soap?
Some may argue that the cost of an Integrity Commissioner and the cases she or he has to hear are a burden to the taxpayer. Well, welcome to the world of Donald Trump. A megalomaniac dictator is cheap. An ignorant aggressive narcissistic personality is a lot costlier in the long run.
Besides, the Integrity Commissioner’s base salary is already worked out in the local budget. If there are no complaints to address, that salary still gets paid. So if local politicians mind their Ps and Qs and behave in a professional manner, there are no additional costs to the taxpayer.
It would be interesting for the residents of Caledon to find out how many complaints have been filed with the Town’s Integrity Commissioner, and by which complainants, and against which respondents, and how many have resulted in cases being carried forward by the Integrity Commissioner. And whether Councillors who were found guilty of violations of the Code of Conduct, as ambiguous as the Code may be at this point in time, have improved their behaviour or not.
Refer, for example, to the York Region Board of Education’s policy on Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment, and you will find that the intent of such a policy is to maintain an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination and respectful of human rights. Yes, if we expect this for our children and their teachers, it might not be a bad ethic to pass on to our politicians. Imagine … professional and respectful behaviour.
In other words, everything we need to know, we learned in kindergarten. Councillors should play respectfully and responsibly, or take a time out from the Municipal playground.
Yes, democracy and justice are expensive, as any dictator will tell you. Here in Caledon, we are fortunate to have an Integrity Commissioner of the quality of John Fleming – we just need to see our Councillors live up to the Code. And to tighten it up!
That’s the way I see it.