Maple Ridge city hall (Neil Corbett/The News)

Maple Ridge city hall (Neil Corbett/The News)

Maple Ridge calls on province to enforce council conduct

Motion to UBCM would prevent local politicians from judging one another

Maple Ridge city council is asking the province to get involved in enforcing the good conduct of municipal politicians, pitching a new Independent Office of Integrity.

Last year, the city put such a motion to the Union of B.C. Municipalities – which is the voice of cities, towns and villages across the province. Recently the UBCM asked the city to re-submit it for the 2021 UBCM convention, so it can be debated. If the motion is approved there, it will go to the province.

Coun. Gordy Robson had the motion drafted, and it received the support of Maple Ridge council. His idea is council members should not be meeting, behind closed doors, to mete out discipline for their council colleagues.

“It’s not a workable solution,” he said. “It’s too open to politics.”

Robson said numerous municipalities now have codes of conduct for elected officials, and these codes are used to try to enforce behaviour.

However, the veteran city councillor and former mayor said the proliferation of slates on city councils means a group of councillors can marginalize and undermine non-slate members who won’t toe their line. And, the discipline often lacks proper due process, he said.

Robson believes this situation is not uncommon among Lower Mainland local governments.

“There’s a lot of strife in councils, and it’s very divisive.”

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The UBCM asked that the motion be re-submitted, so it can be debated by elected officials.

The motion is titled the Independent Office of Integrity for Local Government, and reads:

“Whereas the UBCM Working Group on Responsible Conduct (WGRC) has been working extensively to support local government initiatives to address less-than-responsible local government conduct by providing local government council and board members with a set of principles and general standards of conduct that can be used to develop their own code of conduct;

“And whereas the WGRC continues to work on potential legislative change that focuses on the importance of councils and boards turning their minds to codes of conduct in a standardized and consistent manner:

“Therefore be it resolved that UBCM request the provincial government to establish an Independent Office of Integrity to serve the public, elected officials and local government officials in an advisory, educational and investigative role in the development, application and enforcement of codes of conduct.

The next UBCM convention is Sept. 14-17, and will again be held virtually.

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