The District of Squamish has adopted a Council Code of Conduct Bylaw that currently represents one of the strongest codes of conduct in the province, District says.
Responsible conduct is critical to a local government’s ability to provide good governance to its community and its ability to attract diverse candidates to run for office. In the absence of a Provincial requirement for all local governments to adopt a Code of Conduct, Council has set the bar high for the conduct of current and future councils.
The Code of Conduct and suite of related bylaws and policies is intended to ensure a fair, honest and respectful environment amongst members of Council, staff and Committee members, District says.
“Responsible conduct of elected officials is not optional; it is essential to good governance, and I am confident that our bylaws and policies will help to sustain a Council environment where vigorous policy debate and respectful dialogue co-exist,” says District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “This bylaw signals to staff and the community that our Council Chambers is a place of respect, and one that accepts diversity of people and opinions. It is unfortunate that our province does not require local governments to adopt codes of conduct as I believe they support elected officials in their work and are essential if we want councils and regional district boards to reflect the diversity of the people they represent.”
Council took a comprehensive and integrated approach to the development of its Code of Conduct which outlines expected behaviour at meetings, in the community, on social media, and during election campaigns. The Bylaw outlines both an informal and formal complaint and resolution process, with the formal process involving a third-party investigator. Possible sanctions for breaches of the Code of Conduct are clearly outlined, along with guidance for which parts of the resolution process should take place in an open Council meeting. The Bylaw applies to all members of Council and to those appointed by Council to Boards, Committees, Commissions, Panels or Task Forces.
What sets the District’s Code of Conduct apart is that it is explicitly linked to Council’s Remuneration Bylaw – deducting pay for each breach of the Bylaw, its Procedure Bylaw, the District’s Respectful Workplace Policy, Community Charter conflict of interest rules and a new Oath of Office that is under development.
“Our Code of Conduct recognizes that we all have different ways of expressing ourselves, but that we can debate an issue with a focus on the facts and the policies at hand without resorting to personal attacks. Having a shared set of expectations for the way in which we treat one another and a means to resolve issues is integral to staying focused on the business and not getting distracted by unnecessary drama,” continues Mayor Elliott. “As we enter the election period, incumbent candidates will be held to the standards established in the Code of Conduct throughout their campaigns. Our community should watch and listen carefully to see if all candidates and their campaign teams will do the same, as a candidate’s actions, words and those of their team are reflective of how they will conduct themselves in office.”
A Code of Conduct is essential to open, transparent government, and supports the District’s organizational objective to serve our community through visionary leadership and effective, responsive and responsible government. Codes of Conduct also comply with all applicable federal, provincial and local laws including the Criminal Code, Human Rights Code, Community Charter, Local Government Act and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA). Furthermore, a Code of Conduct conveys the importance of respectful deliberation and debate of public policy issues to ensure a fair, honest and meaningful experience for all.