PEI

Charlottetown councillors can still speak freely, but only with respect, city says

The City of Charlottetown says it doesn't believe new rules will keep councillors from speaking their mind.

Amendment to code of conduct requires councillors to be respectful when voicing differing opinions

Coun. Julie McCabe says nothing disrespectful was said in the past that led to the amendment to the council's code of conduct bylaw. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The City of Charlottetown says it doesn't believe new rules will keep councillors from speaking their mind.

The city says it has been hearing some concerns about free speech since council unanimously approved an amendment to its code of conduct bylaw this month regarding respect for council decisions.

The amendment includes a passage that says, "While respecting the right to have contrary positions and opinions, members shall avoid any words or actions that are unduly critical or derogatory toward other members of council, staff, or the city's official position on any topic.''  

In an email statement, a city spokesperson said a definition of "unduly critical" was also added to mean "to excessively find fault or to judge with severity."

You're entitled to feel the way you feel and to vote the way you vote, and also to justify the reasons behind that.— Coun . Julie McCabe

Coun. Julie McCabe, chair of the human resources committee, said that doesn't mean councillors are not allowed to speak, or talk about what they think or feel.

They just can't speak for others who voted differently, she said, or get personal in their critique.

"You're entitled to feel the way you feel and to vote the way you vote, and also to justify the reasons behind that. But I guess it's also probably good to stop at that point, and not to jump into assuming why someone else voted the way they did.  Let them speak for themselves."

'I think that this would be expected'

McCabe said nothing disrespectful was said in the past that led to the amendment. The new council just felt it was important to put it in.

"I think that this would be expected in any organization or any government agency, that people would be expected to be respectful."

She said if concerns are ever brought forward that someone has been disrespectful with their comments, it will ultimately be up to council to interpret the rule for themselves and to vote on whether the code of conduct was violated.

"We don't always see things in the same way which is probably a really good thing," she said. "Sometimes people don't always like the decision but we have to respect that that's the decision made."

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With files from Steve Bruce

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