Town of Qualicum Beach staff members will look at options to create a code of conduct to govern the actions of council members.
A motion regarding the code of conduct, proposed by Coun. Robert Filmer at the Aug. 12 council meeting, passed unanimously.
“No council is perfect. We go through issues. Having a code of conduct – it’s just that extra cushion that if one of us happens to break a line of a code of conduct, we’re able to rope that person in or that member of council, and as a council, stand united that we don’t accept inappropriate behaviours at this table, or in any business that council conducts themselves,” said Filmer. “Every council I know of now has a code of conduct except for us.”
Coun. Adam Walker said a code of conduct would align with the town’s strategic plan.
“I think it’s an important initiative that we do this. It is defined in all sections of our strategic plan that we will act with teamwork, professionalism, and collaboration,” said Walker.
Walker noted that a code of conduct would align with the town’s desire to improve governance and communication.
READ MORE: Qualicum Beach council approves own pay hike
Though the motion passed unanimously, Filmer says there was initially some hesitation as to whether or not it should be discussed in the public eye.
“The public pays our wage. At the end of the day, they’re our boss, and if we’re acting out of line, or being inappropriate, or not respecting each other, the public has every right to know that… the public needs to be involved in that process,” said Filmer.
Filmer cites unruly debates and speaking out of turn as issues he’d like to see addressed within council meetings. He said he would prefer to hire a third party as a facilitator to create a plan unique for Qualicum Beach. The City of Nanaimo recently went through a similar process.
The second option would be to look at similar policies in other municipalities and create one based off that.
Filmer says that North Cowichan’s code of conduct is widely recognized as one of the best in B.C., according to the Union of British Columbian Municipalities.
North Cowichan’s Council Policy Standards of Conduct is an 11-page document that governs the behaviour of council and committee members in meetings and interactions with public and staff, including conduct on social media.
The NEWS reached out to UBCM vice-president and Mayor of Sooke, Maja Tait, for background on this issue.
Sooke adopted their Code of Ethics Policy in 2011.
Tait says creating a code of conduct or similar policy can help facilitate meaningful debates in local government that focus on the issues at hand rather than being distracted by behaviours of council members or discussion participants. Codes of conduct can also creative an inclusive environment that allow greater public engagement.
She said the request for a code of conduct is common within the membership of the UBCM.