The new and more detailed code of conduct that is being proposed for elected officials in the Cowichan Valley Regional District is raising concerns around the ability of elected officials to do their jobs effectively.
The province has recently directed all local governments in B.C. to consider adopting or updating their codes of conduct, and the CVRD’s draft revised code has increased to 18 pages from the three it was originally.
The new code of conduct under discussion is for elected officials in terms of their dealings with staff, other elected officials and appointees of the CVRD’s various commissions.
After some discussion at the CVRD’s governance committee meeting on April 13 concerning body language that others might find intimidating or aggressive, Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls director Ian Morrison said that sometimes it can be pretty hard to hide a reaction to something that may be said or presented around the board table.
He acknowledged that he’s guilty of occasionally having reactions at times, particularly with facial expressions.
“So I’m a little challenged with turning into a stone-faced automaton,” Morrison said.
“I think the pendulum has swung pretty far and that’s not to say that it shouldn’t, but I looked at the page count on our [draft] policy and it’s 18 pages and I wonder if this extent is required.”
Morrison said he is aware it is required, but he’s hearing from other local governments around the province that there’s an awful lot of effort being put into revising and updating codes of conduct.
“It seems to me that I’m going to have to learn not to smile, and I’m going to have to watch absolutely everything I say in the conduct of me trying to be effective in doing the business of the people who sent me here,” he said.
“I don’t know if staff have any suggestions to tightening this up to make [the code of conduct] a more user friendly, readable and implementable document. It seems like it’s very legalese-oriented and I’m not sure we’ve done our best job on this.”
Ian Paydli, CVRD manager of human resources, acknowledged that the revised draft code of conduct is a lengthy document, but he said it outlines many of the issues that were missed in the previous three-page document in terms of remedies and processes in dealing with complaints.
“When there is a lack of clarity, there is greater grounds for issues with interpretation and this document leaves little for interpretation, and I think it does assist is making sure everyone is well aware of the processes,” he said.
“Is it legalese? I don’t disagree but it’s legalese to the point that’s beneficial to the community and this board. In terms of becoming a stone-faced automaton, that’s not the intent of the policy. I think there’s still an understanding that individuals can be people and they have the ability to react. It’s when these reactions become harmful to others on the board is when this policy can be enacted.”