New Brunswick

Moncton councillor's conduct, comments about city committee member under review

A Moncton councillor's behaviour toward a volunteer municipal committee member last month has led other committee members to speak out and to a code of conduct investigation.

Coun. Daniel Bourgeois made disparaging remarks about Carole Chan in email to councillors

Behaviour by Moncton Coun. Daniel Bourgeois is at the centre of a code of conduct investigation following a municipal committee meeting last month. (Shane Magee/CBC)

A Moncton councillor's behaviour toward a volunteer municipal committee member last month has led to other committee members speaking out and a code of conduct investigation.

At issue are comments Coun. Daniel Bourgeois made toward Carole Chan during an enhancing democracy committee meeting Oct. 21 and in a subsequent email he sent to city councillors with disparaging remarks about her.

In the email, he attributes things to Chan that she either didn't say during the committee meeting or are misconstrued. He alleged she said she was only appointed to the committee to ensure women and visible minorities get elected to council. 

"In other words, white men make bad politics that scare others from political life," Bourgeois wrote in the email obtained by CBC News. 

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said the matter is being taken "very seriously." 

"Whereas this is seen as a potential breach of our code of ethics and conduct, the established process under the code has been initiated," Arnold said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Carole Chan is a volunteer member of Moncton's enhancing democracy committee. (Jeremie Doiron/Submitted)

The code of conduct for councillors says they must treat every person with dignity, understanding and respect to ensure the work environment is free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

Alleged violations can trigger an investigation. Sanctions council can impose include a reprimand letter, demanding a public apology, removal from committees, reduction or suspension of pay and restrictions on access to city facilities or documents.

Councillor won't comment

Bourgeois, serving his second term, wouldn't comment for this story. He reiterated he doesn't speak to CBC and several other media outlets.

Chan told CBC she joined the committee to foster improvements to civic life in the community and has been left disappointed. 

"Very surprising, particularly for an elected official," Chan said of the councillor's actions. 

"There's anger too, you know, just as anyone would feel if somebody put words in their mouth. It convinces me that staying on the committee is important as a person who cares deeply about citizen engagement in the City of Moncton." 

The committee launched about eight years ago has helped draft the code of conduct, review city ward maps, and make recommendations about procedural issues.

Bourgeois has sought to change a council procedure bylaw to allow motions to be introduced and debated in one meeting instead of over several meetings. He has raised it several times, saying the current procedure can delay debates by several weeks. 

Chan asked during the Oct. 21 committee meeting about a way to shorten that to two weeks, the length of time between two regular council meetings. On the recording, Bourgeois can be heard dismissing the idea, saying she's not on council and doesn't understand the dynamics.

After the meeting, Bourgeois sent an email to council resigning from the committee. He called Chan stupid and attributes statements to her that the recording indicates she didn't make.

We're trying to attract people to the system, not tell them that they need to come to this with their elbows up.- Carole Chan

She can be heard on the recording talking about joining the committee to ensure better representation and more diversity. 

"I don't think layering in another piece of political manoeuvring is necessarily helpful," Chan said during the meeting.

"We're trying to attract people to the system, not tell them that they need to come to this with their elbows up. We're trying to attract, I think I would like to attract councillors who can work together."

The non-city council members of the committee, including Chan, Frank Vandenburg, Don Moore, Nadine Larche and Maeve Murphy, held an unofficial meeting about Bourgeois on Oct. 24.

They unanimously approved a motion saying the councillor's behaviour "fell far short of respect, professionalism, and inclusion" and likely violated the council code of conduct.

"The non-council members of the enhancing democracy committee request that the chair of the committee use whatever appropriate means to communicate our concerns regarding the words and actions of Councillor Daniel Bourgeois, to highlight their inappropriate and inflammatory nature, to set the record straight, to seek appropriate redress, and to seek sanctions," the motion states.

Frank Vandenburg, the chair of Moncton's enhancing democracy committee, began to outline what unfolded at one of the group's recent meetings when city council left the room to instead discuss the issue privately. (Shane Magee/CBC)

That led to an attempt by Vandenburg to raise the committee's concerns at the council meeting on Monday. Chan was also scheduled to address council.

Vandenburg began telling council that multiple committee members contacted him after the meeting saying they were considering resigning because of what unfolded and kept quiet "because I was watching what was happening and I didn't want to be the next person attacked."

However, Vandenburg was cut off and councillors left the room to discuss the matter in private. When they returned, neither Vandenburg nor Chan were allowed to speak. They were told the city has a code of conduct with a complaint process they could follow. 

Vandenburg told reporters Monday he's been in communication with the city's integrity commissioner hired by municipalities to handle code of conduct complaints. He said the committee members want transparency and accountability. 

"To simply bundle everything into an envelope and send it off to the commissioner, and then maybe a report gets issued that the public can see, maybe not, that wasn't enough for us. We wanted people to be aware of what's going on."

Chan told CBC she hopes speaking publicly will set a higher bar for the behaviour expected from public officials.

"I hope that it will encourage just better basic behaviour," Chan said.

She said she was nominated to the committee about a year ago and saw it as a way to improve civic life in the city. She previously spent several years as a member of the city's planning advisory committee and ran for the provincial Green Party in 2020. 

About a month after she became a member of the enhancing democracy committee, her husband died and she became a single mother of three children.

What had been a once-a-month volunteer committee last month suddenly turned into something she had to spend a lot more time dealing with because of the councillor's actions, she said. 

"This is way above and beyond what I was invited to do as a volunteer, having to defend my reputation," Chan said.