Whitby Mayor to address Queen’s Park on anti-harassment legislation for councillors

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Published May 5, 2023 at 3:03 pm

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy will be at Queen’s Park Monday morning in support of Bill 5, pending legislation that aims to hold municipal councillors accountable for harassment and other breaches of conduct.

In recent years, many municipalities in Ontario – including Whitby – have seen members of council accused of inappropriate behaviour. During the last term of council, members of Whitby Council were publicly accused of sexual innuendo, body shaming and harassment and Roy wants to see Bill 5 – Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act, 2022 – passed to ensure there is accountability for elected officials.

“Currently, there is no process to remove municipal politicians from office, even if serious acts of harassment and abuse are committed and substantiated,” Roy told the Ontario Big Cities Mayors conference last month. “The existing penalties – a three-month suspension of pay or the loss of a committee or board seat — are not enough to maintain public trust in local government.”

Whitby voted to support the legislation April 25 and more than 50 other municipal councils have done the same, including Ontario Big Cities Mayors.

Bill 5 establishes a judicial process to remove councillors who commit acts of abuse or harassment from office, holding them to the same standard as any other workplace in Ontario, where these actions would result in employment being terminated.

“The fact that we are elected officials should not provide immunity from facing consequences related to workplace harassment and abuse.”

Bill 5 was introduced last August by Liberal MPP Stephen Blais as a private member’s bill, amending the Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

The amendments require the code of conduct for municipal councillors and members of local boards to include a requirement for those councillors and members to comply with workplace violence and harassment policies.

The amendments also permit municipalities and local boards to direct the Integrity Commissioner to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat if the commissioner’s inquiry determines the member has contravened the code of conduct by failing to comply with the workplace violence or harassment policies.

The Legislature at Queen’s Park

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