The province has been invited to step into situations where municipal mayors and councillors are accused of questionable conduct, following an initiative by the City of Maple Ridge.
The Union of BC Municipalities has been holding its annual convention this week, and the yearly meeting of local government officials endorsed a motion that had been put forward by Ridge. By a vote of 68 per cent in favour to 32 per cent opposed, mayors and councillors from across the province passed the motion calling for a new Independent Office of Integrity for Local Government. It would see the provincial government play an advisory, educational and investigative role in development, application and enforcement of codes of conduct.
Endorsed: (2020-NR1) Independent Office of Integrity for Local Government – Calling for a provincial office to play an advisory, educational and investigative role in development, application and enforcement of codes of conduct. #UBCM21 pic.twitter.com/3S34kTwIrz
— UBCM (@UBCM) September 15, 2021
Coun. Gordy Robson drafted the motion, with a goal to prevent council members from meeting behind closed doors to mete out discipline to their council colleagues. He said many cities across the Lower Mainland have adopted code of conduct bylaws in recent years, to govern their councillor’s behaviour, and enforcement can be divisive and political.
He addressed the UBCM Wednesday, saying “in 2020, I requested that this resolution be brought forward for UBCM consideration after seeing the struggles our municipality and others face in relation to the adoption and enforcement of council code of conduct bylaws.
“The Working Group on Responsible Conduct, a joint initiative of the Union of BC Municipalities, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and the Local Government Management Association, has provided a model code of conduct and a companion guide to assist municipalities with drafting a code of conduct bylaw. While this is a great start, what is really needed is for the province of BC to step in an provide a neutral, independent office of integrity who can oversee the conduct of elected officials in an open and transparent manner, and take the enforcement out of the hands of fellow elected municipal officials.”
The motion was proposed in 2020 and went nowhere, but the UBCM asked the city to re-submit it this year.
Robson said he was surprised the motion passed by such a convincing margin, because municipalities “don’t like asking senior government for supervision.”
He said the support for the proposed office of integrity shows politicians see problems, or potential for them.
Having passed, the initiative will now be put before the provincial government for consideration and development, said Robson.
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