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Council Follow-up, week of April 4, 2022

Updated: Jan 6

Much better than the previous week, but still not stellar. Concerns of staff safety, as well as indications of bullying of Councillors, plus total lack of accountability (from respondent or City) in the workplace harassment case.

Disappointing and frustrating that note that our Statement – Stopping Sexual Violence In the Workplace – was not included in the Circulation List, as had been submitted and specifically requested

General Committee

Happy to report that Councillor Aylwin's item of discussion, to endorse MPP Stephen Blais's "Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act"was approved on consent – thank you to everyone who contacted your councillor to support this motion! If passed, this bill would allow Municipal Councils to remove a Councillor who violated workplace violence and harassment policies – mind you, we could still see the types of voting patterns that took place in our own workplace harassment case, but it would be an important tool of accountability.

Also passed on consent: the 2022 Busking Program Pilot and Emerging Artists / Musicians Program; investigating installing an automated gate at Tyndale Park to limit access in the later evening hours; and supporting federal funding for a Lake Simcoe Restoration Fund.

Councillors N.Harris & Morales's item of discussion to establish a Renter's Committee in the next term was held for discussion. The general consensus was that this is outside of municipal jurisdiction, as landlord and tenant issues are provincial, and the city can't conflict with provincial policy. Also, staff is already stretched, and nobody knows what other committees will be added by the next Council, after they've done their strategic planning – housing in general will be a big issue for Council, not just renters. In the end, the item failed, although perhaps it got a larger housing conversation started?

And finally, for an item of discussion that only one member of Council supported from the outset, the discussion around buying the Barrie Jail and using it for affordable housing sure took a huge chunk of the meeting – about 35 minutes! We won't bother repeating all the arguments against Councillor McCann's motion, as it appears that everyone else on Council and in the public understands why it was a ridiculous concept to bring forward. We will note that he seemed confused and incredulous that people were worried about the stigma, and that he (unsurprisingly) became downright bullying when he wasn't getting his way. Several potential Code complaints against him arising in those thirty-five minutes, but pick your battles.

Some items in questions of staff we'd like to point out this week, as well. First, Councillor Riepma mentioned other municipalities having educational programs for voters or people looking to run as candidates in the municipal election, and wondered if Barrie was doing something like this? Wendy Cooke confirmed that there will be a few candidate sessions, the first towards the end of April, but they're waiting on ministry partners to get back with further info and scheduling. Excellent news – we don't believe this has been done before, and we heartily approve and appreciate the City taking this on!

Councillor Aylwin had a set of questions regarding the Council motions regarding the workplace harassment investigation and corrective actions. First was whether the responded had completed the required training on workplace violence and harassment? Prowse advised that the respondent had not taken the courses, but still intended to. We find it unacceptable that this has not been enforced, especially considering how often "the respondent" speaks regularly in Council about meeting with female staff members to discuss various Council issues – has the City learned nothing about keeping staff members safe from workplace harassment, even if "the respondent" refuses to take the training in a timely manner? Aylwin also asked about the other section, regarding restrictions to interactions with staff, and whether there has been enforcement and compliance with this motion? Again, an unsatisfactory answer from Prowse – he indicated it would be "difficult to monitor", and indicated that no complaints have come forward. Relying on staff members to come forward with a complaint – especially after watching what happened when the previous staff member came forward with a complaint – is an unfair burden and expectation, and indicative of the systemic failures that both allowed and covered up this workplace violence in the first place. The City needs to be more proactive in protecting staff from an unsafe and toxic workspace. Nobody coming forward with a new complaint is NOT a reassurance of staff safety. We would like to reiterate our 2020 request that ALL Councillors and Management receive training on workplace violence and harassment, including these systemic issues that prevent people from coming forward with their complaints.

Our concerns over keeping staff safe continued as Thomson pushed for opening up Council chambers to the public – even while acknowledging that "we're getting rising numbers" and "it's important to keep staff safe", but pushing for a situation that would not be safe in the middle of a sixth wave (it should be noted that Councillor Morales, who was in chambers, was constantly coughing and looked very ill all meeting).

Keeping staff (and residents) safe should be prioritized over Councillors' political posturing. Again, the proceedings of tonight's meeting did not give us much to "promote public confidence and respect" in some of the leadership.

Finance and Corporate Services Committee

Fairly quick meeting, with only a few recommendations from Committees. Happy to report that two of the recommendations coming from the Anti-Racism Task Force (via the Town & Gown Committee) were approved unanimously – the first to ask staff, in consultation with the Anti-Racism Task Force, to look at ways to encourage and recruit a greater diversity of membership to City Committees; the second to look at opportunities for the City to participate in the "It Starts With Me" initiative. The third recommendation from Town & Gown – reviewing the Boarding, Lodging & Rooming House Regulations, and looking for ways to increase compliance with zoning and licensing requirements, failed, with a tie-breaker from Morales, the Chair of the Committee (Ward and Harvey were for, Thomson, J.Harris & Morales against).

The question of nominating a Senior / Caregiver of the Year as part of the annual Spirit Catcher Awards was referred to the next Spirit Catcher Committee meeting.

Active Transportation and Sustainability Advisory Committee

One recommendation coming forward to have Access Barrie support Bike The Night in producing promotional materials for the event, funded by Councillor Aylwin's expense budget.

International Relations Committee

No recommendations brought forward.


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