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Council Follow-up, week of September 19, 2022

Updated: Jan 6

It was a quick return, as this was the last week of City Council until after the municipal election on October 24.



City Council


Watch Again: https://www.youtube.com/citybarrie (direct link not yet provided)


Council Chambers was packed with silent protesters from Women of Simcoe Say No, who were calling upon Council to re-state their support for Bill 5, the Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act (re-introduced, as Bill 10 disappeared when the Provincial election was called). There was a powerful moment, when McCann started to speak on the Owen Street Development Charges item – all the protesters in Chambers silently stood up with their protest signs, and remained standing until he finished (he did not speak again in the meeting).


Amendments were made to the Owen Street Development Charges Deferral Request by Riepma/J.Harris and Ward/Thomson, to make the item more agreeable to Council. It was carried as amended, with only Harvey voting against. Essentially, the developer may defer only the portion of the development charges related to the proposed seniors rental units, for up to three years or building occupancy, and only if the developer applies for building permits within 120 days, and will pay interest on the deferred amount throughout the term.


The protesters silently stood again when the direct motion to support Bill 5 was read and discussed. It was disappointing (but not terribly surprising) that the discussion quickly turned away from Bill 5, or the purpose of the bill – i.e., being able to remove from office Council members who were found to have abused fellow Council members, City Staff, or the public (such as in Barrie's own Workplace Harassment case). Morales tried to amend support for the act by adding finding ways to deal with members of the public harassing Councillors. Lehman rightly corrected him that the Bill was about Councillors harassing the public, and that if he wanted to add this separate issue in, it should be its own paragraph, not added in to the statement about Bill 5. Morales amended, and continued to speak about harassment of Councillors, instead of harassment by Councillors, which is what this motion was supposed to be about. Fortunately, the Councillors speaking next (Kungl, Riepma) wanted to keep the focus on Bill 5, and not water down the motion. As Councillor Harvey stated, "we muddy the waters by combining the two issues", and there are tools available right now if Council members are experiencing harassment from the public, including the criminal code. "We should not muddy the waters by adding any additional – let's worry about getting this legislation through." (This was a pleasant surprise, considering those who were twisting Bill 5 support into a conversation about Councillors being harassed by the public – N.Harris, J.Harris, Morales – were part of the block who had voted against the Integrity Commissioner investigating the City's Workplace Harassment case – it was good to see him break away from this block and speak up.) J.Harris continued to push for the amendment despite the arguments, as did Morales. (Thomson and McCann remained silent.) Lehman tried to get Morales to explain what he wanted the Province to do, which unfortunately gave him more time to pull the conversation completely away from Bill 5 and talk about social media instead, without satisfactorily answering the question (as Lehman pointed out succinctly).


Ward managed to bring the conversation back to the fact that Council was being asked to endorse Bill 5, and to what Bill 5 is about – addressing the gap where under the current legislation, there are no means of removing a Council member from office if they are found to have broken the workplace safety and harassment laws. "It has nothing to do with the Code of Conduct or Bill 5. Harassment of people online is a problem, not just for Councillors, it's for many people out there in the public. And I'm not sure why we're trying to tie it to this particular motion tonight, when it doesn't really have anything to do with – apart from being something we don't want to see – it's really got nothing to do with harassment of, the Integrity Commissioner's ability to remove Council members. That's not something the Integrity Commissioner is going to be involved in. ... I have a real problem bringing it in tonight, and taking away from what this particular motion is directed towards, and that is: giving the Integrity Commissioner more powers to remove Councillors. ... I don't think it has anything to do with the motion that's on the table tonight. In fact, I think it's probably out of order."


Lehman stated he had wondered if it was out of order too, but wanted to side on allowing for conversation. Morales withdrew the amendment. Lehman nevertheless continued the conversation about harassment of Council members, stating he'd had to have police protection. He finds some of the stuff that gets sent to elected officials is appalling, and there should be accountability for it, citing Catherine McKenney in Ottawa, Jagmeet Singh in Peterborough. He also stated that the treatment of elected officials is one of the reasons why people don't run for office any more, and is unacceptable. But that he had the same problem with Morales's amendment, and agreed with Harvey about not watering down the motion.


The motion – as not amended – carried unanimously.


A very thorough report from Invest Barrie was very informative and thorough, with many questions from Councillors answered. (Although, considering the previous motion, it was more a little disconcerting when McCann suggested some of the information he wanted from Ms. Schlichter would be "maybe in a closed-door meeting".)



Arts Advisory Committee



The RFP for the Performing Arts Centre has been rewarded to Hariri Pontarini Architects.


Barrie Arts Awards nominations are extended to September 28 – info can be found at www.barrie.ca/artsawards


A directory to Arts and Culture Services and Organizations has been started by summer students, and is being completed for presentation to the new term of Committee.

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