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N.L. municipalities well versed in harassment, bullying

Tony Keats is the president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador.
Tony Keats is the president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador. - SaltWire Network

Councillor, MNL lead hope to see more statistics on departures

Harassment and bullying has come up time and again provincially, as The Telegram noted this week, but are not absent from municipal government.

There have been cases involving public disputes and resignations, centred on allegations of bullying and harassment in municipalities.

It’s something Coun. Mike Goosney said has been lost at times in the public discussions around recent events in the legislature and any new policies for that workplace.

Goosney ran against Premier Dwight Ball in the last election, as the NDP candidate in Humber-Gros Morne, but is now a Deer Lake councillor.

In response to questions from The Telegram, he suggested now is the perfect time for increased attention to municipal-level harassment and bullying concerns, even as it is considered at the House of Assembly.

Goosney said this province has a small population and is a small community, and he has found political debates generally have a tendency to get very personal, very fast.

“People make it personal and I think that’s where we falter,” he said.

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Goosney and others speaking with The Telegram over the past week suggested the political environment could be improved.

“There’s councillors stepping down every month,” he said, suggesting at least some of the turnover is due to harassment and bullying in the workplace.

The Telegram tried to find out how many councillors are leaving municipal posts and for what reasons. Elections NL does not cover municipalities, the provincial department responsible for municipalities does not track byelection numbers or why byelections are held, and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) doesn’t either.

MNL president Tony Keats said the support organization for municipalities has developed its own anti-harassment policy and code of conduct, and has versions easily adaptable and available for councils around the province.

MNL has partnered with the provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women to promote the development of localized policies.

Keats said his personal hope is that new provincial legislation governing municipalities will include a nod to the issue, including a requirement for municipalities to have written anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct, to address what is within their control.

The related legislative review began in December 2017 and is being led by a working group with members from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment, and the Department of Justice and Public Safety, with support from MNL and the Professional Municipal Administrators.

The working group is scheduled to make a final submission of findings and recommendations to Municipal Affairs this fall. 

ashley.fitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

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