Ridge tells council there is going to be a workshop on the long awaited code of conduct for members of Council during a discussion on harassment and bullying in the city.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

February 8th, 2018


Ridge tells council there is going to be a workshop on the long awaited code of conduct for members of Council during a discussion on harassment and bullying in the city.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster was chairing a Committee of the Whole meeting and handed the gavel to the vice chair so she could speak to a memo she had distributed to her colleagues.

Much of what Lancaster had to say was deeply disturbing. Lancaster told of a threatening email she had received with a photograph of a severed wrist attached to it. A number of staff members received the same email – city manager James Ridge told the committee that he sent a very stern email response to the person who sent the document.

Lancaster on bullying

Councillor Lancaster speaking to her colleagues about a Task Force on harassment and bullying in Burlington.

Lancaster talked of a very unhealthy situation and suggested that when Councillor Meed Ward spoke on a matter of personal privilege the “council chamber was not a safe place” which seemed a little extreme but the way Lancaster puts it there does appear to be a problem with the way people address each other.

In her comments on the memo she sent to her Council colleagues she said she felt the city had an obligation to stop this kind of intimidation and harassment. She added that was sure every member of council has had one of their community meetings hijacked.

Lancaster said people feel that if they don’t agree with you they have the right to attack you verbally. She added that there are few strategies to deal with external harassment.

The discussion involved members of staff and it became clear that the Deputy City Manager was going to be tasked with whatever came out of the discussion. City Manager James Ridge added to the discussion and quietly let it be known that there would be a Workshop on the long forgotten Code of Conduct for members of city Council.

This matter has been waiting for someone to breath some life into it ever since the Mayor passed it along to the city manager many,many, many moons ago.

Ridge-Tanner + on code of conduct

City manager James Ridge explaining to council that there will be a Workshop on a code of Conduct for members of council – this has been in the works for more then five years – it was the province pushing the municipalities – several council members did everything they could to prevent the Clerk from creating such a document.

Ridge told Council that the province was now bearing down on the municipalities and requiring them to have a Code of Conduct for Councillors in place.

The city has a code of conduct for its staff – as far back as the first term of this council there has been bickering and some back stabbing between members of city council on what was acceptable behaviour.

For the first time in this reporter’s experience we heard a member of Council use a Point of Privilege to address a concern about the behaviour of a member of council.

Lancaster was asking for a Staff Direction that would:

Direct the Deputy City Manager to create a Task Force to address issues related to bullying and harassment in the City of Burlington both internally and externally and report back in Q3 2018.

The task force will make recommendations for Council approval that will be tied to a City of Burlington “Governance Model” that will support an inclusive environment at all City facilities that is safe and welcoming for all who engage with the City of Burlington. The Governance model will apply to stakeholder interactions both internally and externally.

Lancaster said that the incidences of harassment and intimidation have occurred both internally and externally and appear to be linked with the insurgence of social media, media, increased communication and participation with the public.

council with term dates

This council couldn’t agree on what should be in a Code of Conduct dung its first term – 2010 – 2014. They are going to have to put such a policy in place before the end of this term.

The Staff direction included the comment that “It has been difficult to address these incidences without clear policies in place. The city has some policies and programs that address bullying and harassment in the workplace, such as: respect in the workplace and the employee code of conduct. There is no overarching policy that brings together standards for interactions between staff and the public, with the exception of Parks and Recreation Department who do have some guidelines as they pertain to their programs. The Charter Action Team (ChAT) also began the work to engage citizens respectfully, but it is clear that more needs to be done by setting standards for all modes of communication and interactions with stakeholders.

The intent of the staff direction is to create a task force of stakeholders who will consider this matter and recommend policies to help address. The task force will be directed to consider a governance model in order to commit COB to zero tolerance policies that will identify bullying and harassment by any means, including: verbal communications, emails, social media, gestures, physical touching, telecommunications, untrue statements, threats, racism, bigotry, to name a few.

The COB “Governance Model” will set standards and policies for behaviour while working and engaging with the COB as well as guidelines that will identify harassment and bullying behaviours and will set out the necessary actions and responses that COB should take in order to eliminate or stop the harassment or bullying in order to protect and provide a safe environment for all individuals involved.

During the discussion Councillor Meed Ward made the point that one has to be careful to not use policies and practices to stifle citizen comment.

Sharman - bullying meet Feb 5-2018

Councillor Paul Sharman .

Councillor Sharman kept using the phrase “mis-information” without being specific as the the information he was talking about.  Information one doesn’t agree with is not mis-information.- whose information

Once established, policies must be communicated with an implementation plan, both to, and through, management. This ensures that management is given the appropriate guidelines and information to be able to comply with governance. This includes delegation of authority and responsibility, stakeholder communication with management to discuss feedback. Vision, strategies and policies are communicated to managers who are expected to communicate and comply with them. Decisions that have been escalated to management or where governance is not clear.

The Task Force would include:

Deputy City Manager
Councillor Blair Lancaster
Clerks Department employee
Legal Department employee
Human Resources Department employee
Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee member (Task Force will gain feedback regularly from the Inclusivity Committee)
Residents (2)
Halton Regional Police
City of Burlington Employees (2) Charter Action Team member
Maximum 12 members

Councillor Craven expressed a concern over how the Chair of a council committee can handle situations where the behaviour of a delegation is unacceptable.

Brian BIAC chair

Brian Wrixon, chair of the Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee speaking at a council meeting

Councillor Sharman told the Chair of the Burlington Inclusivity Advisory Committee that he had been watching some television on the growth of Nazism and how misinformation and propaganda was used by the Germans and asked if Brian Wrixon cared to comment on this and what was happening in Burlington. Wrixon said he had no comment.

Several council members said they realized the behaviour of the American president had radically changed what civil discourse has become – Burlington city council want to try to stem that tide.

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3 comments to Ridge tells council there is going to be a workshop on the long awaited code of conduct for members of Council during a discussion on harassment and bullying in the city.

  • Stephen White

    The discussion was supposed to be about the Code of Conduct for Councillors. Instead, most of the reported comments focused on the bizarre behaviour of a few idiots who send threatening e-mails or communication.

    If individuals threaten civic officials or Councillors …call the police and let them lay charges under the Criminal Code. Frankly, any moron who indulges in this kind of behaviour will not be dissuaded by a Code of Conduct. This is also not something the City Manager should be tasked with resolving.

    Finally, to Councillor Craven’s concerns around the behaviours of delegations I would submit the bigger problem is the response of councillors to delegations. If you want respect you actually have to show respect. When I attend Council meetings and I watch Eva Amos being chided by Councillor Dennison over a petition with 3,300 names on it opposing the New Street Road Diet, or watch another brave resident with a 1,400 name petition opposing the 421 Brant Street development being treated dismissively, I have to ask myself who has the problem.

    To borrow a Biblical phrase “You reap what you sow”. Little wonder many of us will planting a better crop of Councillors this fall.

  • The only thing I didn’t like about previous drafts is that it had this line in it where it said:

    “Councilors cannot do anything that could affect the future employment of Burlington staff.” or something like that.

    This seems to me to be too broad, simply criticizing work product not agreeing could do that.

    As for being polite – you can’t regulate that my friends – if you councilor is rude, don’t vote for him again.

  • Penny

    This workshop on a Code of Conduct for Council will be welcomed for those who have delegated at City Hall and have been treated poorly.

    The residents need to concentrate not on this workshop, but what is happening with applications coming in from developers…Today in Marianne Meed Ward’s Ward 2 Newsletter there is news that an application for a 24 storey building across from the 23 storey building at 421 Brant Street has been received by the City. TO STOP THIS INSANITY COUNCIL NEEDS TO NOT RATIFY THE PROPOSAL OF 421 Brant Street. Doing this will put the new application on hold.