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Organizations and opposition members unite against the harassment of municipal staff by elected council members, February 21, 2024. Queen's Park screen shot.

Legislation sought to curb harassment of municipal staff

By Randy Thoms Feb 21, 2024 | 5:39 PM

There is a push to get the Ford government to pass legislation that protects municipal staff from harassment by elected officials.

Organizations like the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario say there has been a rise in incidents across the province in recent years.

Executive Director David Arbuckle says some have left the profession because of it.

“You’ve had people being quite demanding in relation to particular projects or actions that need to be done and putting considerable pressure on staff in order to take action, which may or may not be the right action as it relates to that,” says Arbuckle.

“A lot of staff are facing some of those challenges and also the confrontation, even in an open council setting, where staff, councillors are being very direct with staff, sometimes being quite personal with staff.”

All municipalities have had codes of conduct for council members since 2001.

Members can face suspensions with pay, but no requirement for them to resign their seat.

Emily McIntosh, with the group Women of Ontario Say No, says those penalties are just not strong enough.

“That councillor who committed the offence can still participate in activities and attend council meetings. They can be asked to sit at home. They can be asked not to attend committee meetings. They can be prevented from travelling, but they can actually continue to join the very person they may have harassed while under suspension of pay. And that has to change,” says McIntosh.

The Liberals proposed a bill in 2022 only to have it defeated during second reading.

It proposed council members comply with the same violence and harassment policies followed in other workplaces.

It would have also included a provision allowing the Integrity Commissioner to remove a member from council if found to have violated those policies.