Integrity, respect, accountability, and leadership and collaboration.
These are the principles that Port Coquitlam's mayor and councillors must follow under the city's Code of Conduct policy that was officially adopted last week.
The new policy is in response to provincial government's Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, which came into force last year as a result of pressure from the City of Port Moody and other B.C. local governments and agencies where there were no guidelines for how local politicians behaved in public and behind closed doors with each other and municipal staff.
Port Moody was the first community in the province to bring in a Code of Conduct bylaw; it was raised by then-Coun. Meghan Lahti (who is now mayor) following allegations of bullying and harassment by former mayor Robert Vagramov and other councillors.
Last Tuesday, Sept. 5, PoCo city council OK'd its Code of Conduct policy without comment at its special council meeting.
In October 2021, PoCo council adopted a Respectful Workplace Policy a year after former city councillor Laura Dupont was censured by her colleagues for disclosing confidential information.
Under its more formal Code of Conduct, which new or re-elected council members must affirm at the inaugural meeting as part of their Oath of Office, PoCo politicians must:
- carry out their duties with integrity
- be accountable for the decisions they make, and the actions they take, in the course of their duties
- be respectful of others
- demonstrate leadership and collaboration
In May, Coquitlam city council also revised its Code of Conduct to align with the new provincial legislation.
But when the draft came before council in committee in April, Coun. Trish Mandewo said it didn't go far enough and opposed the bylaw.
"This is way, way, way too general," she said, noting the lack of procedures and penalties for those who flout the code.
"The language is too light.... When the time comes, it's not going to save anybody."
But other Coquitlam councillors pointed out the existing federal and provincial rules for elected officials who breach conflict of interest, confidentiality and privacy, as well as use influence peddling.
Details of PoCo's Code
PoCo's new set of rules on council member conduct are as follows:
- Members will be open and truthful in all local government dealings, while protecting confidentiality where necessary.
- Members will behave in a manner that promotes public confidence, including actively avoiding any perceptions of conflicts of interest, improper use of office, or unethical conduct.
- Members will act in the best interest of the public and community.
- Members will ensure actions are consistent with the shared principles, values, policies, and bylaws collectively agreed to by the council or board.
- Members will demonstrate the same ethical principles during both meetings that are open and closed to the public.
- Members will express sincerity when correcting or apologizing for any errors or mistakes made while carrying out official duties.
- Members will treat elected officials, staff, and the public with dignity, understanding, and respect.
- Members will acknowledge that people’s beliefs, values, ideas, and contributions add diverse perspectives.
- Members will create an environment of trust, including displaying awareness and sensitivity around comments and language that may be perceived as offensive or derogatory.
- Members will refrain from any form of discriminatory conduct against another elected official, staff, or the public.
- Members will honour the offices of local government and fulfill the obligations of Mayor/Chair and Councillor dutifully.
- Members will recognize and value the distinct roles and responsibilities of local government staff.
- Members shall not interfere with, hinder or obstruct staff in the exercise or performance of their roles, responsibilities, duties or functions.
- Members will call for and expect respect from the community towards elected officials and staff.
- Members will ensure that public statements and social media posts that concern other elected officials, staff, and the public are respectful.
- Members will be transparent about how elected officials carry out their duties and how council conducts business.
- Members will ensure any information and decision-making processes are accessible to the public while protecting confidentiality where necessary.
- Members will correct any mistakes or errors in a timely and transparent manner.
- Members will accept and uphold that the Council is collectively accountable for local government decisions, and that individual elected officials are responsible and accountable for their behaviour and individual decisions.
- Members will listen to and consider the opinions and needs of the community in all decision-making and allow for public discourse and feedback.
- Members will act in accordance with the law, which includes, but is not limited to, the statutes, bylaws, and policies that govern local government.
Leadership and Collaboration
- Members will demonstrate behaviour that builds public confidence and trust in local government.
- Members will provide considered direction on municipal policies and support colleagues and staff to do the same.
- Members will educate colleagues and staff on the harmful impacts of discriminatory conduct, and take action to prevent this type of conduct from reoccurring if necessary.
- Members will create space for open expression by others, take responsibility for one’s own actions and reactions, and accept the decisions of the majority.
- Members will advocate for shared decision-making and actively work with other elected officials, staff, the public, and other stakeholders to achieve common goals.
- Members will foster positive working relationships between elected officials, staff, and the public and relationships with neighbouring First Nations to further advance reconciliation efforts.
- Members will positively influence others to adhere to the foundational principles of responsible conduct in all local government dealings.