Councillor John Tamming is concerned about the limits to the powers of the municipal Integrity Commissioners to deal with hatred and misogyny in municipal governments. He prefaced a motion this evening, slightly amended from his notice of motion, with several recent examples from several Ontario councils. 

Councillor Carol Merton responded with the following remarks and a friendly amendment.  Council decided to revisit an amended motion at its May 30 meeting.

"I support the intent of Councillor Tamming’s motion to draw attention to the fact that changes are required in the Municipal Code of Conduct.
At the same time, the children’s rhyme many of us know as “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is not accurate.

In a recent Municipal World Master Class course I attended entitled “Civilitas: respectful leadership in local government”, we were presented with research by neuroscientists which found that threats in social situations, such as a verbal encounter, trigger the same reaction in the brain as encountering a physical threat. Social Pain , from threats in social situations, tends to be more intense, longer lasting, less likely than physical pain to diminish over time and stays with us to the grave.

Names DO hurt - not only the individuals who are named but those who sit around the Council table and those who watch the Council proceedings. We all feel the impact and are all influenced by those words and in some cases, actions.

As Councillors, we learned in our Council Orientation Training session that we are held to a higher standard. We can agree to disagree with each other holding to the values of respect, integrity and to allow the dignity of the individual to prevail. Good debate is critical to good decision-making. Accountability and respect go hand-in-hand.

Political discourse does not mean pummeling by words, actions or deeds any individual we may disagree with.
This behaviour has been going on for a period of time. Incidents that we have become aware of are merely the tip of a very large iceberg.
For your consideration I suggest friendly amendments in your motion. ...

The discipline of a councillor is a downstream solution in reaction to an action or event which has already occurred. Of equal importance are upstream, proactive solutions that educate, enhance and offer the prospect of change. I propose that change can be initiated through ongoing orientation and training sessions for municipal councillors to make clear what is and is not appropriate discourse in the Council chambers and in the public arena.

I encourage you to consider a friendly amendment to your motion to include a request to our provincial and municipal government to implement a strengthened, province wide, standardized, ongoing education and orientation program for Council, City Committee members, Board affiliates, and staff.

This proposed change might ensure that all those engaged in our city governance and operations are provided with the framework, tools, measurements, conflict resolution techniques and effective communication strategies to be effective in their work.

We all know what happens when we have a bent wheel on bike or a misalignment of a wheel when we hit a bump in the road. Ensuring that we are all aligned around behaviours and expectations moves our city forward and supports effective decision-making at this and every other municipal table.
For a more fulsome motion please consider these friendly amendments to your motion and consider sending it to all municipalities and AMO."

photo: Paul Mison



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