COMMENTARY: Transparency pendulum has swung too far

I’m Bill Kingston with today’s commentary. It was theme throughout the election campaign – transparency and accountability. But the municipal election was five months ago and it seems like every council meeting lately you can’t get away from the words “transparency” and “accountability.” They’ve turned into buzz words. The latest use of T&A was Monday night as Coun. Brock Frost laid out his plan for an integrity commissioner and a code of conduct. Having an potentially expense integrity commissioner doesn’t make sense when the Ontario Ombudsmen is available and is “free” to the municipality.

As for the code of conduct, council addressed conduct through a covenant in June 2013. It outlines roles and responsibilities for council and the CAO. But the problem is not everybody signed it. At the time, Maurice Dupelle, Andre Rivette and Gerald Samson voted against it. But it still passed which makes it binding on council but somehow that’s not good enough. Rivette had said in 2013 that it cheapens the politicians’ oath of office.

The councillors swear an oath of office to be accountable and to do their job to the best of their ability. The thought is somehow having a “real” code of conduct will make council more accountable to the public but it’s really just optics and something on paper. Council is really limited by the Municipal Act on what it can do if someone is out of line or up to no good. So why are we even wasting our time going over this again and again? It’s almost like there’s a bogeyman from the problems with the last administration.

Those close to council have suggested to me that the councillors are being encouraged to get their election promises, which include transparency and accountability, out on the table early and get them out of the way before the city moves on with bigger business. Hopefully that’s the case because, after nearly half a year, the city needs to move ahead and not have elected officials constantly second-guessing their conduct.

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