‘Pretty concerning’: Bill that could fire municipal politicians in Brampton, Mississauga and the rest of Ontario over harassment returns

Liberal MP Stephen Blais has reintroduced a law that would allow councils to remove city government councilors and mayors found guilty of harassing or assaulting co-workers or the public.

An Ontario bill to toughen penalties for city councillors, including those in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, found guilty of harassing city staff, the public or fellow councilors, is back at Queen’s Park.

Liberal MP Stephen Blais reintroduced his Stop Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act on August 10 at Queen’s Park and the bill, if passed, would allow councils to direct the Commissioner for integrity of the city to ask a judge to vacate the seat of a councilor or mayor if they are found guilty of violating its policies on workplace violence or harassment.

Currently, the most severe sanction an Integrity Commissioner can recommend is a 90-day salary suspension and removal from office of a board member if found in violation of the company’s code of conduct. a municipality.

“People used to do the honorable thing and just step back and quit because they didn’t want to put their family through this,” Blais said in an interview with the Mississauga News. “They had a certain level of honor involved. Our society has come to a point where this no longer happens. »

The bill, which follows recent high-profile allegations of harassment or assault by councilors in Brampton and Mississauga, would also bar those who are removed from running for a seat on city council for two general elections.

In 2019, Brampton Councilor Gurpreet Dhillon was found by the city’s Integrity Commissioner to have breached four rules of the council’s code of conduct during an official trip to Turkey during which he was charged of sexual assault. His salary was suspended for 90 days and the Brampton board asked for his resignation, which he did not offer. Dhillon denies any wrongdoing.

Most recently, Mississauga Councilman Ron Starr was found guilty by the city’s Integrity Commissioner of harassing former councilwoman Karen Ras when he allegedly locked his SUV in an underground parking lot.

Starr, who denies the allegations, was stripped of two months’ salary.

Blais said in other industries, if an employee is found guilty of assaulting or harassing a co-worker or member of the public, they would be fired, but elected officials have been treated differently.

“It’s quite concerning that these people are theoretically back in a position of power to make decisions about, you know, your day-to-day life and your family’s day-to-day life,” he said.

The August 10 filing is the third time the anti-harassment bill has been introduced at Queen’s Park.

In 2021, the bill died after the legislature was prorogued. When reintroduced, the bill passed second reading but died when the legislature was dissolved ahead of the June 2022 provincial election.

Blais said he was concerned that members of the Ford government, who previously supported the bill, would prioritize stopping harassment among city leaders.

“We have been clear that we will not tolerate any kind of harassment or discrimination in the workplace,” Matt Carter, spokesman for the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing, wrote in an emailed statement. . “Councillors and council leaders must discharge their elected duties in an ethical and responsible manner.”

Carter added that the PC government is considering changes that would strengthen municipal codes of conduct to “promote safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces.”

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