Nova Scotia

Halifax council wants to give teeth to conduct code

Halifax regional council is considering penalties to go along with its code of conduct for councillors.
Mayor Peter Kelly said council's code of conduct needs to be given some teeth. ((CBC))
Halifax regional council is considering penalties to go along with its code of conduct for councillors.

The code was adopted in May 2009, but councillors are not required to sign it, and council doesn't have the authority to enforce it.

There is no penalty for inappropriate conduct, which can include anything from getting into a fistfight to disclosing sensitive information.

Purcells Cove-Armdale Coun. Linda Mosher said problems have happened in the past, such as councillors who disclose sensitive information, costing the city money and causing legal problems. 

"Those types of issues have occurred, but there's nothing that we can do to stop them or to mitigate the damages," she said Monday.

Mosher wants the region to have the authority to sanction inappropriate acts.

"Really, without provincial endorsement under the charter, there's no teeth to it. So what I would like to see is that when we have our document finalized, approved by council, and the province gives us the legislative authority under the charter to have some teeth to the code of conduct, some accountability," she said.

"Because if somebody violates it right now, there`s nothing that we can force them to do."

Mayor Peter Kelly, who chairs the committee that's trying to change that, agrees that the code needs to be strengthened.

"At the end of the day, we also will be looking for, maybe looking to the province for tools that we can use to bring strengthening or teeth to the legislation or to the documents, as well," he said.

Possible punishments might be a suspension from council, with or without pay.

Kelly said the public could also be able to use the same complaint process.

If the complaint is serious enough, the city might hire an independent integrity commissioner or panel. The panel would recommend a punishment, and council would have the final say.

The plan will be presented to regional council in about a month.