EDITORIAL: Code of conduct already in place

Creating policy for bad behaviour sets a dangerous precedent

The City of Victoria’s proposed Code of Conduct for councillors, which would extend to advisory committees made up mainly of public citizens, has been criticized as being too broad and a threat to open, honest debate.

While the installation of such a code was recommended during past reviews of the city’s operations, there are already guidelines in place to cover off such things as maintaining decorum, showing respect to others and the process of civic government.

Roberts Rules of Order, the B.C. Community Charter, and even to a degree, the Local Government Act already give members of publicly elected bodies an outline for keeping things moving in a respectful way.

While Vancouver and other jurisdictions in B.C. have put similar codes in place, councils around the Capital Region seem to be getting along fine without one, relying instead on common sense and the tools already in place to handle issues as they arise.

Without a doubt other councils will be watching closely what happens in Victoria.

We wonder whether this move is driven by a need to follow recommendations made by outside agencies, as Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin indicates, or intolerance for a fellow councillor’s way of operating at the council table. Regardless, the city can scarcely afford to spend time and funds on creating a program when it has more pressing matters on its plate.

The chair of any meeting is expected to keep things on track and call others out if they stray outside the bounds of proper behaviour.

In this case, Mayor Fortin would be advised to use the tools at his disposal. If there are continuing problems with decorum or appropriate behaviour, he has every right to use his position to take corrective action.

At the very least, a serious conversation between the mayor and any offending individual would go further than a needless policy.