Conduct Unbecoming

originally written as an editorial comment for Just Sayin’ Caledon

There are very good reasons why the Town of Caledon should be examining their Code of Conduct and Workplace Harassment policies, and questionable behaviour from a couple of politicians is only one of the them.

First, a Code is mandated under the new Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Act Legislation 2017. Not a discussion item. But what is up for discussion is the wording of the Code of Conduct and its alignment with best practices in dealing with Workplace Harassment.

In fact, Municipalities may combine their policies on Code of Practice to Address Workplace Harassment with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and their Code of Conduct.

According to the Ontario government, by law, “harassment” may include:

  • making remarks, jokes or innuendos that demean, ridicule, intimidate, or offend;
  • displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials in print or electronic form;
  • bullying;
  • repeated offensive or intimidating phone calls or e-mails; or
  • workplace sexual harassment.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) an employer may include the following behaviours as examples of workplace harassment:

  • offensive or intimidating comments or jokes;
  • bullying or aggressive behaviour;
  • displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials;
  • inappropriate staring;
  • workplace sexual harassment;
  • isolating or making fun of a worker because of gender identity.

So, for example, a Councillor challenges the applicability of a report from a recently hired  member of the Town’s Senior Admin Team with the dismissive comment, “You’re new here.” If that member of Town Staff felt demeaned, intimidated, ridiculed, or offended by the Councillor’s statement, that’s workplace harassment.

Now, if that Councillor were a first term, barely elected representative of “the people”, and if the new Town Staff member had years of private and public legislative experience, the “You’re new here” comment could be considered workplace harassment by a narcissistic bully. Particularly if that Councillor had previously violated the norms of appropriate behaviour with colleagues.

Or suppose that volatile politicians, on hearing that a work crew in their ward is being harassed by members of the public, declare that they will take care of it. “Not so fast,” says the Town’s CAO, “Those workers are hired by the Town and it is the Town’s responsibility to deal with the situation.” “Our boys – we’ll take care of it,” declare the fire, ready, aim politicians! “No, the safety of the Town’s staff falls under the OHSA. Not your responsibility,” patiently explains the CAO. More proof positive that the adult model only works when you’re dealing with adults.

So, Town of Caledon, become educated in the rationale for pursuing a modernized guide to Conduct, Harassment and Workplace Safety designed to improve the quality of discourse and behaviour in the governance of our Town. This is not an attempt to muzzle the rights of free speech or to eliminate diversity of opinion. Rather it is to ensure respectful behaviour and communication between all members of the Town Staff and Council.

As much as the “Propaganda Machine” of local newspapers, and the alternative truth, libelous postings of blogging politicians and their spouses would try to convince you otherwise, the only people who fear an improved Code of Conduct and Harassment Policy are those incapable of playing nice.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oil Pipelines and Oily Promises

There is a certain sense of Alanis Morissette irony in watching two NDP provincial governments bicker over oil pipeline approvals. Alberta on the one hand is trying to defend the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline for economic and employment reasons, and British Columbia is trying to stop the pipeline to protect their Pacific coast for ecological and cultural reasons.  When the right wing flow of Big Oil money hits the left turning paddle wheel of environmental ideology, the NDP provincial grist mill grinds to a halt. Well, if you won’t pipeline our AB oil, we won’t drink your BC wine!

So much for left of centre eco-governance. Well, unless we look to the recent statements of national NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. At the latest federal NDP gathering, he said that his fight wasn’t with the two feuding NDP provincial premiers, rather: “My fight is with the Prime Minister who promised to overhaul our environmental assessment process.” At the same time, he also endorsed the Leap Manifesto. An endorsement that left British Columbia smiling and Alberta stuck in the tar sands.

The Manifesto, spearheaded by Stephen Lewis’ son, Avi, and Naomi Klein, calls for an overhaul of the capitalist economy to wean the country quickly off fossil fuels. While Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was telling delegates that pipelines are crucial to revive Alberta’s resource-based economy, among other things, the federal manifesto calls for no new pipelines. The “Leap” is really a reworking of then Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s “Green Shift” – a quest to move Canada from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy. Lest we forget, that put the federal Liberals into an election that saw the party abandon Dion faster than the Ontario PCs dumped Patrick Brown. And that led to eight years of the Harper regime.

Fast forward to the federal Liberals of today, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also caught between the sticky bitumen and a hard place, trying to defend his mantra of environmental sustainability and economic security balanced peacefully in a consensual partnership. The problem is that the male economics of Big Oil have a long history of abusing the female ecosystems of Earth, and the environment is now saying “Me Too!”

Jagmeet Singh is absolutely correct; the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten a promise to clean out the National Energy Board of its Harper era appointees, and replace the pipeline approval process with a scientific fact-based analysis involving full participation from all local communities, particularly First Peoples. A promise broken is a trust lost, as the young protester at a BC Town Hall scrum recently reminded the PM. To which he angrily responded, “Really?” And had the protester removed.

Yes, “Really!” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. You made all of Canada a promise. Now either act like a statesman and keep that promise, or behave like a politician and spin it. But you can’t defend approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline with the current flawed process. Nor can you trust a  company that has accumulated over $160,000,000 million in environmental violation fines over the last decade alone with the responsibility of protecting the ecological integrity of the planet’s north west Pacific coastline.

How can we do business with a company that states, on the record, oil spills “can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies,” because of the economic benefits related to clean-up efforts. “Spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers.” Really? That’s sort of like trusting Dick Cheney and his Halliburton Corporation with rebuilding Iraq after the U.S.A. destroyed it while looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. War, like an oil spill, is good for business; it’s not personal.

However, dear bickering and back-sliding politicians, it’s personal for those of us not on the next Elon Musk trip to a space colony.  For 99.9% of us, there is no Planet B. Either make the Green Shift and Leap into a new energy paradigm, or get off the pulpit of false prophets. Either begin the smooth transition to a renewable energy economy, or planet Earth will make the decision for us.

Canada cannot stand on the world stage and pretend to be a productive part of the Paris Accord at the same time it is defending the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline under the current skewed National Energy Board review and approval process.

Our children and our communities are asking that same old question of commitment just like the woman in the Meatloaf song, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, asked,

“What’s it gonna be boy? I gotta know right now! Before we go any further,                          Do you love me? Will you love me forever?”

Yes, or No – we need to know right now.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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honestyandtruth

Seriously, that is the handle on a non-existent email address from an ANONYMOUS reply to my last entry on Truth and the Press. We actually had a productive conversation going until I my “peeps” alerted me to who it was, and the ANONYMOUS replier bailed into cyber space.

As one literate friend cautioned me, “If they’re anonymous with a fake e-mail don’t even respond.” And yet, the initial back and forth was a good discussion. We do believe in a diversity of opinions as long as they are well informed opinions. “Well informed” means that the facts do not come from Fox News or Breitbart or Chicken Little, but from an authentic source,. I still go with the 3P’s – practicing, published, and peer reviewed .

It was when I asked the anonymous replier for whom she or he was speaking, that it all broke down. “The people,” was the reply.

Now that set off all of my “El -Toro Pooh Pooh” detectors. There is no phrase so odious as “I speak for the people” other than “I do this for the good hard working taxpayers of Canada”, or “Trust me, I’m an Olympic gymnastics doctor,”

Someone who hides behind a fake email address and anonymous identity is a TROLL – and a bad one at that. Ugly and hiding under a bridge. The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Truth and the Press, a series

On Friday, January 5, 2018, a staff member at Metroland Media’s Caledon Enterprise began to badger me by email with a series of intrusive questions involving a private matter before the Integrity Commissioner (IC) for the Town of Caledon. Not wishing to break the public trust and confidentiality regarding investigations by the IC, I did not answer the questions.

Several more emails followed pressuring me to respond by his editor’s deadline prior to the public release of the IC Report. I informed the “reporter” that I would be happy to consider his requests when the Report of the Integrity Commissioner was released publicly in Council. However, by now I was beginning to feel like I was being pursued by the paparazzi and less cordial about sitting down to a Q & A.

What came to mind immediately was a quote from the inimitable character Howard Prince in the closing lines of the 1976 movie, The Front. Howard had been placed in front of a McCarthy era team of aggressive lawyers to answer questions about his liberal left leanings and writings. Finally having had enough of their badgering, Howard ended the interrogation with the memorable words:

Fellas. . .I don’t recognize the right of this committee to ask me these kinds of questions. And furthermore, you can all go f-ck yourselves.

However, to answer more completely, The Report of the Integrity Commissioner regarding the complaint in question has now been addressed fully in Council. It was the decision of the Town of Caledon’s IC not to pursue this complaint against Regional Councillor Annette Groves. He also decided not to pursue this most recent complaint against the conduct of Regional Councillor Barb Shaughnessy, who has previously had to apologize in Peel Region for racial slurs delivered at an Ontario Heritage Board meeting, and been charged with violating the Code of Conduct at her own Caledon Town Council.

The complainants in this current case were the Mayor of Caledon, and an unnamed member of the public. The report of the Integrity Commissioner found that there was not enough evidence to prove that private in-camera negotiations had been inappropriately discussed at a public meeting. He also determined that misinformation about taxpayer funded transportation discussed at that same meeting had been later clarified. The IC concluded his investigation. And that should have been the end of the story.

But humble pie is not a dish found on many politicians’ plates. Following the Trump mantra of lie, scream and attack until you win, the games began. Either one or both of the Regional Councillors released the name of the “member of the public” from their private Integrity Commissioner Report to the same reporter who had been hounding me.

Now, in the preservation of public confidence, the Integrity Commissioner chose to release the names of the elected officials involved in the complaint. He also chose to keep the name of the member of the public confidential and had it redacted from all of the official documents. The reason for this is simple. By keeping the name confidential, a member of the public can bring forward a complaint against a politician without fear of reprisal.

Members of the general public do not have the stage of the Council chamber from which to address complaints. As witnessed in the histrionic claims of innocence that followed the release of the Report, some politicians take full advantage of that platform by which to perform for their base and the next election.

Therefore, by publishing the suspected name of the “member of the public” in a local newspaper, the reporter in question violated a public trust. If I were the redacted member of the public, it would make no difference to me. I am quite confident in the truth as I see it in my investigative journalism. And my blog entries have made it quite clear about how I feel about grandstanding elected officials who deliberately mislead their constituents. But some quieter, less confident member of the public might now think twice before bringing forward a complaint against an aggressive, abusive, and bullying politician. Not to mention an aggressive, bullying, and abusive member of the paparazzi.

Lastly, to clarify for the relentlessly annoying “reporter”, I will now answer his questions as if I were the member of the public whose name had been redacted for privacy reasons as determined by the wisdom of the Town of Caledon’s Integrity Commissioner.

For my full answer to the Metroland Media Caledon Enterprise staff, see the opening quote by Howard Prince.

***
Skid Crease, Caledon

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Let’s Talk Day

Yesterday was the notable “Let’s Talk Day”, unfortunately sponsored by Ma Bell. However, the intent is wonderful – a chance to bring mental health issues into the open and allow individuals, families and communities to deal respectfully with the realities of differences in sanity. The deep necessity of a day like this was emphasized when Doug Ford announced his decision to tun for the leadership of the already disabled Ontario Regressive Conservative Party. We really need to talk.

However, on a more serious note, I would like to talk about an acquaintance who is afflicted with aggressive narcissistic personality disorder. This person probably has some wonderful character traits, but they are deeply buried beneath a defensive and aggressive exterior. I have attempted both personal and official channels to get his person help, but to no avail.

Even when faced with the absolute reality of gravity, this person will deny its existence if it doesn’t fit the populist worldview of the moment. My acquaintance has also shown a great disregard for reality beyond basic science. For example, although holding no college or university certifications in any profession, this person continuously claims almost superhuman skills in everything from Architecture to Environmental Science. So sad.

Perhaps it is this basic lack of any real competence that makes this person such an aggressive bully. Perhaps it is living with an equally ignorant partner who reinforces the bad behaviour. Perhaps an abusive childhood raised by inflexible,ultra-religious domineering parents (I know, I know – there’s a movie script just waiting…) I have no idea what the root causes of this negative social behaviour might be, but his person desperately needs help.

Let’s talk.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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