Brock Township hopes to improve resident-council dialogue with a new charter
DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
BROCK: Brock Township council is looking to improve communications between residents and members of council.
At a meeting on Monday, May 31st, councillors passed a motion to request township staff to “begin drafting a comprehensive extension to the current Council Code of Conduct, or a separate set of policies, which will confirm the obligations to residents and taxpayers, including but not limited to a Council-Resident Charter.”
The motion, made by Ward 3 Councillor Walter Schummer, explained the charter would: “outline responsibilities members of Council have to communicate with all residents and taxpayers of Brock Township, in the manner chosen by individual Councillors”; and include: a “comprehensive and fair social media policy”; as well as a “pledge, [so] member[s] of Council will treat residents and taxpayers with respect and courtesy during all interactions”; a created “complaint and appeal process”; as well as an “outline [of] circumstances in which a member of Council may discontinue communications with a resident or taxpayer.”
The motion set a target of September 2022 for the completion of all of this work.
“I don’t think we’re starting from scratch. I’m not asking staff to reinvent the wheel. I think a lot of work has already been done, and we can move this forward,” Councillor Schummer stated.
He also noted, the City of Burlington was one municipality which adopted a Community Engagement Charter.
Ward 2 Councillor Claire Doble supported the creation of the charter, stating it would “encourage positive communication” and give council “some standards” for respectful dialogue.
However, some members of council felt this was too soon for the township to be starting this process.
Mayor John Grant, explained the provincial government will be starting their own process to redesign municipal codes of conduct. “My suggestion is we come back in September, and have a discussion at that point, and see if we should proceed with this motion or not,” Mayor Grant stated.
Regional Councillor Ted Smith made a motion to defer Councillor Schummer’s motion.
Councillor Smith explained, he feels “it would be better to wait” for the completion of the provincial process.
Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell agreed with Mayor Grant and Councillor Smith.
“I’m sure we can all be respectful and courteous in the interim, as we always have been in the past. So, because this seems premature because we’re looking for something from the province, I will second the motion,” she said.
But, Councillor Schummer felt the township should move forward with this process now.
“The last thing I want to do is wait for the province. They’ve made some serious promises in the last year alone, and people in the province are still waiting for those to be hammered out,” he said.
The Regional Councillor’s deferral motion was defeated four to three. Then discussion resumed on Councillor Schummer’s motion. Councillor Smith called the outline in the charter proposal, regarding when councillors could discontinue communications with residents, “an overreach” and he feels it “puts a lot [of work and responsibility] on staff.”
Councillor Schummer responded, stating similar procedures and protections already exist for township staff members. “If a resident is constantly and belligerently [talking to staff members], we do have a provision where staff can cut off some communications with residents, if they get out of line with our staff.”
Councillor Schummer’s motion was approved, five to two.