This blog is written by me, as a way to express my opinion on the lack of contract between the City of London and the LPFFA. Before I get to that, I need to rewind a little and make sure that those that read the blog understand that my intent is to share my opinion, but that does not mean that I will be sharing information I have learned in closed session.
Municipalities need the ability to discuss a number of items in closed session. The items allowed to be discussed in closed session are limited by the Municipal Act. Complementary to the Municipal Act, the Ontario Ombudsman has published a handbook which includes examples which qualify for closed session, and examples of instances where the qualification was not met. Further to that, councillors must follow the council Code of Conduct.
Nowhere in any of those documents, is a councillor prohibited from expressing their opinion. One key item in our Code of Conduct under Section 2 – General is the following:
2.6 Members shall accurately and adequately communicate the decisions of the Council, even if they disagree with Council’s decision, such that the respect for the decision-making processes of Council is fostered.
I swore an oath of office, I have strong ethics, and I believe in following the rules. I will never disclose information that I have learned in camera (closed session). I will make decisions based on all of the information that I have available to me – including information in the public realm, and information that I have received in camera, and I will make the best and most balanced decision for the people of London that I represent. I will also commit to sharing my opinion, while accurately and adequately communicating the decisions of council as I am required to.
So, what’s confidential?
Rule 4 of our code of conduct:
4.1 Members shall hold in strict confidence all information concerning matters dealt with at a meeting closed to the public under the Municipal Act or any other Act. For greater certainty, information shall include, without limitation, documents, records, advice received, presented, reviewed or discussed at a closed meeting and any discussion, direction and deliberation during the closed meeting. A Member shall not, either directly or indirectly, disclose, release, make public or in any way divulge any such information or any aspect of a closed meeting to anyone unless expressly authorized by Council or required by law.
4.2 A Member shall not disclose information in contravention of the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
4.3 A Member shall not disclose information that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, unless the privilege has been expressly waived by Council.
4.4 A Member shall not misuse any confidential information such that the release thereof may cause detriment to the Corporation, Council, the public or others or benefit or detriment to themselves or others. For greater certainty, confidential information includes, without limitation, information that a Member has knowledge of by virtue of their position as a Member that is not in the public domain, including emails, and oral and written communications from other Members or third parties.
Council members do not always agree, in camera or in public. There are many examples during public meetings of disagreement between council members. Friction is ok, and more often than not – as a community, we want some level of diverse opinions. Disagreement and dialogue fosters an environment through which independent thinking is encouraged and diverse opinions are raised and considered – even when that means that a vote determines a direction which does not have unanimous support. That is the role of council. That is what democracy represents. The right and ability to share your opinions, to have a discussion, and to participate in a vote which will set the direction.
So why am I sharing this now?
I am sharing this now because it is overdue. I have learned from my colleagues, and from our staff. I have watched other municipalities councillors exercise their office, and have learned from them as well. I owe a sincere apology to all Londoners, for being too cautious in sharing my opinion on labour relations matters up to this point.
I have come to believe that when I have not shared my opinions in the past, I have left people wondering about my ethics and values. I try to do my best, each and every day. I serve at the will of my community and to make our city a better place.
As I write this, there are many questions circling about the current labour dispute with our LPFFA bargaining unit. Many of the questions, I am not able to answer as the answers would divulge information which I have learned in closed session. The public has a right to continue to ask those questions, however I must uphold my oath of office, and my commitment to our council code of conduct and not share the answers.
What I can share with you, is my opinion.
My opinion is that I am not okay with the fact that we have employees who are without a contract.
- I believe that our most valued asset as an organization is our employees. They are the face of our city – not me, not council. It is the men and women who work for our city every day, both inside offices, and on our streets. It is the staff who respond when our streets are flooding, or answer the phone when residents need help. It is the staff who professionally respond to an emergency and protect our lives and property. The face of our city are the men and women who ensure that we are able to provide services, and those that deliver the services.
- My opinion is that each and every employee, unionized and non-unionized, should be able to go to work every day under a fair contract.
- My opinion is that every single one of our employees should feel respected and valued for the work that they do for our city.
- I am not okay with the fact that we have yet to find resolution, but I hope that we can find that resolution soon.