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Women of Simcoe Say No – Deputation to New Tecumseth Town Council

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Originally published at www.alyssawright.com.



As part of The Women of Simcoe Say No (led by Emily McIntosh), many of us are applying to give deputations to City and Town Councils across Simcoe County, asking them to pass a motion to endorse Bill 5, the Stopping Harassment and Abuse By Local Leaders Act, and to write a letter of support to the province, urging them to get this important legislation passed quickly.


This was my (spoiler alert: successful) deputation in person to New Tecumseth Town Council. The full text and presentation, as well as the motion from New Tecumseth are included below the video.




Deputation to New Tecumseth Town Council


Good evening, Mayor Milne, Deputy Mayor Norcross and Councillors, and thank you for this opportunity to speak with you.


My name is Alyssa Wright, and I am here representing “The Women of Simcoe Say No”, a grassroots group formed in recent weeks to advocate that municipal workers be protected from abuse and harassment — just as workers in any other environment are already protected.


We are asking the municipalities of Simcoe County to support Bill 5, the Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act. And we are asking that this endorsement be communicated to the Province before they return to the Legislature on October 25 — encouraging them to make second and third readings of this bill an urgent priority, for the sake of all municipal staff and those working with municipal governments.


I’ve lived in Simcoe County for over 16 years, the last 8 in the City of Barrie — which was, embarrassingly enough, named by MPP Stephen Blais as one of the four recent cases of abuse by Councillors that motivated his Private Members Bill.


I’m motivated too. So are many others — this is not a partisan Bill. In the previous sitting of the Provincial Legislature, this Bill — then Bill 10 — passed second reading unanimously, with full support of all parties. Unfortunately, Bill 10 died when the government called an election this spring, so MPP Blais re-introduced it as Bill 5 on August 10 — incidentally, the same date that the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act had its first reading, which received Royal Assent within four weeks.


Bill 5 needs to also be passed that quickly. In its previous iteration, it’s already gone through an extensive consultation process to get to its current form. Municipalities need these basic tools to keep their staff and the public safe — tools that already exist in every other workplace in Ontario.



Residents and City Staff in Ottawa, Brampton, Barrie, and Mississauga have recently learned the hard way that the Occupational Health and Safety Act — and the tools it provides to protect people from workplace violence and harassment — do not apply if the perpetrator is an elected official.


In any other workplace, if someone was found to have been violent or abusive with another person, there would be measures available to ensure that no further harm would be caused to their victim or anyone else in the workplace — up to and including removing the perpetrator from their position.


If the perpetrator is an elected official, however, the strongest remedy currently available under the Municipal Act is that the Integrity Commissioner can suspend them for 90 days without pay — after that, they are free to return to the workplace. And their victim — or victims — must make the decision of whether they can afford to leave a workplace that cannot keep them safe, or if they must stay and face their abuser every day until the end of the Council term.


Which is about to be November, 2026, because — as I’m sure you know — we are about to have a municipal election. Which means that, unless Bill 5 is passed, our incoming elected officials know that they will have four years of carte blanche to behave as badly as they wish, just so long as they don’t get criminally convicted.


Fortunately, most mayors and councillors would likely not take advantage of such freedom. But the possibility is still there, and we need to shut that possibility down.


We need Bill 5 passed, yesterday.



As soon as Bill 5 is passed, each municipality’s Code of Conduct would include a requirement for Councillors and members of Local Boards to comply with workplace violence and harassment policies.


It would also permit Municipalities and Local Boards to direct the Integrity Commissioner to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat if it is determined that the member has contravened these violence and harassment policies.


Also, should a member be removed from office in this way, there would be restrictions on their running in subsequent elections, or being reappointed to the Council or Local Board — in much the same way as a candidate who fails to file a financial statement for their election campaign is currently prevented from running in a subsequent election.


Let that sink in — under current legislation, someone who doesn’t file a campaign financial report is prevented from running in the next election. But an incumbent who is found to have assaulted a staff member, a colleague, or a member of the public has no such restrictions, and is free to run again.


This. Makes. No. Sense.


As it stands now, the respondents from the Brampton and Mississauga cases are running for Council again, and the respondent from the Barrie case is running for Mayor. Can you imagine what is going through the minds of Municipal Staff right now, as they contemplate the next four years without Bill 5?



The Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act will help keep municipal workplaces safe. This accountability, through a transparent and fair process, with multiple layers of decision-makers should already exist. But it doesn’t.


Our ask of you today is for absolutely zero dollars, zero partisanship, and very little of your time. All we are asking you is to show your care for your own staff, your colleagues, and the public, and that you are willing to make Town Hall a safe place for all people, from all people.


We are asking Council to pass a motion to endorse Bill 5, and to write a letter of support circulated to:

  • your MPP Brian Saunderson

  • Premier Doug Ford,

  • the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark,

  • the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and

  • the MPP for Orléans, Stephen Blais.

I am happy to report that the municipalities of Barrie, Springwater, and Wasaga Beach each passed such a motion this month, and our group has deputations scheduled in several other municipalities in the coming weeks.


Please join them, and help protect everyone working for and with municipal governments across Ontario.


Thank you so much for your time.


The Motion


Moved by Councillor Beattie, Seconded by Deputy Mayor Richard Norcross (although Councillors MacLellan and Harrison McIntyre also wished to second):


WHEREAS the most severe penalty that can be imposed on an elected official is suspension and loss of pay for 90 days, even in cases of workplace harassment or abuse, and


WHEREAS there is currently no process by which to remove an elected official from office, even in cases of workplace harassment or abuse, and


WHEREAS elected officials should be held to the same standard as all employees in cases of workplace harassment or abuse, and


WHEREAS Bill 5, the Stopping Harassment and Abuse By Local Leaders Act, which seeks to amend the Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act, has been re-introduced to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario by Stephen Blais,


NOW THEREFORE be it resolved that the Council of the Town of New Tecumseth endorse and draft a letter of support in support of Bill 5, the Stopping Harassment and Abuse By Local Leaders Act, and further, that a copy of this letter be sent to the County of Simcoe, Premier Doug Ford, Steve Clarke Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Brian Saunderson MPP for Simcoe-Grey, Stephen Blais MPP for Orléans, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.


Carried unanimously!



 

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