By-law banning most out-of-town speakers at Pickering Council passes unanimously

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Published May 28, 2024 at 10:45 am

A motion to restrict public delegations at Pickering Council to residents and business owners in the city erupted into chaos Monday night, with several recesses called to restore order, the council chambers cleared to ensure safety and the councillor at the heart of the entire debate banned from speaking or voting on the issue after a series of outburst.

The result, with Councillor Lisa Robinson not able to vote, meant a unanimous 6-0 vote in restricting delegations to locals, with certain exceptions, to “protect residents so that they could attend meetings without fear of intimidation” and help Council “move forward with the business of the City.”

Nearly two dozen delegations spoke on the bylaw Monday – including Robinson’s mother Dianna, a Toronto resident, and Oshawa publisher Joe Ingino, who printed several op-eds from Robinson that have been described as “racist, homophobic, transphobic, and threatening.”

Three delegates were taken off the speakers list before any delegations began, as they were on the ‘no trespass’ list stemming from a raucous meeting earlier in the spring where the police had to be called.

Almost all the delegates Monday evening supported Robinson and called out Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe for being “disrespectful” and trying to “marginalize” and “gaslight” the councillor at meetings, while calling his council a “dictatorship.”

Ottawa resident Jennifer Johnson said reports of “bullying” by Ashe were “deeply troubling,” while Dianna Robinson accused council of “fabricating” facts to “suit their agenda.”

“They want to suppress your input by taking away your civil rights.”

The first recess in the meeting happened after Ashe ruled Robinson out of order and did not recognize her ‘point of personal privilege,” prompting this response from the Ward 1 Councillor: “You’re treating me like an animal. I’m not your wife and I don’t like being treated that way.”

(Robinson has already been suspended without pay for 30- and 60-day periods and there are calls to permanently remove her from Council. There are no provisions in the Municipal Act for the removal of a member, however.)

Lisa Robinson

Pickering Councillor Lisa Robinson (left), Mayor Kevin Ashe (with mic) and Councillor David Pickles (right)

The second recess – the break that forced the clearing of the chambers – happened after lawyer Bruce Cowle spoke of the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling that Robinson had been spreading “bigotry” about the LGQBT community.

Robinson said the delegate “lied” and the Integrity Commissioner was “biased” and repeatedly demanded to rebut Cowle’s comments on a point of personal privilege, only to be once again ruled out of order.

“You’re out of order, Mr. Mayor,” was Robinson’s response.

When Council eventually resumed, with the chambers now empty of residents and out-of-towners alike, Ashe said he was “very troubled” by the actions of the evening and said the presence of so many supporters for Robinson at the meeting was “obviously orchestrated.”

“I know it’ll be great YouTube content for Councillor Robinson and her supporters,” he said. “Councillor Robinson will make a video about it and take credit for it and take pride in it. It’ll be on Rebel Media and the far-right podcasts.”

“There’s nothing to be proud of tonight. Nothing to be proud of at all.”

The bylaw is a byproduct of the chaotic tenure of Robinson and the “frequent and repeated lapses of decorum by delegations” speaking on her behalf, noted Councillor David Pickles, who brought the notice of motion forward.

Pickles said before the vote Monday the reasons for the bylaw became “self explanatory” during the three-hour round of delegations, adding that he has heard from many residents who won’t come to council to speak on issues of the day because they “afraid” of what could happen.

The Ward 3 Regional Councillor hopes the bylaw will protect residents so that they could attend meetings without fear and help Council “move forward with the business of the City,” adding that the behaviour of public delegates makes it difficult to convince businesses to locate to Pickering.

“I wouldn’t want them to watch out council videos.”

One of the other reasons for the Pickle’s motion to ban out-of-town delegates was to speed up the Council process so each meeting’s agenda can be completed and the business of government can go on, with agenda items delayed to future meetings on numerous occasions because of the behaviour of public delegates.

“Our business is not getting done.”

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