Former premier says workplaces should be free from harassment

April 20, 2023   ·   0 Comments


Years spent at Queen’s Park has informed former premier Kathleen Wynne about the haranguing of elected officials by other elected officials.

And there has been instances of similar behaviour at the municipal level.

Wynne has been travelling the province to introduce municipal councillors to Bill 5, the proposed Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act. The legislation was prompted by the behaviour of councillors in communities throughout Ontario, she told Orangeville’s council on Apr. 17.

“This is not anything that is relegated just to councillors,” she said. “But the concern is that there’s not enough accountability structure in place for elected municipal officials.”

Wynne appeared before council on behalf of a group called Women of Ontario Say No. It’s a collective concerned about behaviours that undermine civil society, faith in democratically elected officials, and society’s institutions.

After a 22-year career in politics, Wynne said she believes elected officials need to hold themselves to a higher standard than the rest of the population.

“People look to us,” she said. “Children look to us. And I think that it’s incredibly important to our democratic system.”

To that end, Bill 5 has three components.

The first is that municipal councillors are required to adhere to the workplace violence and harassment policies in place at the municipalities they represent.

“Which seems to me like a pretty low bar in 2023,” Wynne said. “But nonetheless it is necessary to articulate that.”

The second component is that municipalities would direct the integrity commissioner to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat for failing to comply with the harassment policies.

Wynn said that the second facet is about giving Bill 5 the teeth that comes with consequences for non-compliance.

The third aspect is to restrict councillors whose seat has been vacated from seeking immediate re-election. She said it isn’t a lifetime ban from re-election. Rather, the chastised former councillor won’t be able to run in the byelection brought by their dismissal.

“I’m doing this because I feel that everyone has a right to a safe workplace,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you are.”

Wynne asked that Orangeville’s town council support Bill 5 and communicate their support for the legislation to the provincial government.

“This is not a partisan ask,” she said. “I am not here as a Liberal. Whether the legislature passes and enacts Bill 5… or whether the government decides to take the components of the bill and put them into government legislation, that’s really immaterial.

“The point is these safeguards need to be put in place.”

Councillor Andy Macintosh said it’s a shame such measures haven’t already been in place.

Deputy Mayor Todd Taylor said he’d like to see the legislation reach beyond just elected officials’ behaviour.

“There’s also something else out there and it’s the public’s behaviours,” he said. “There’s another piece that’s happening and it’s happening to people who are sitting up here. It’s the harassment that we receive and the treatment that we receive.”

Wynne said there are unacceptable behaviours in many societal facets.

“One of the things we can do is we can take control of our own settings and set that example,” she said.

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