Skip to content

Work on bill to address municipal politician harassment 'complex,' minister says

Paul Calandra, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, speaks during a press conference in Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Calandra says drafting a bill to address harassment by municipal politicians is proving to be more complex than he though. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

Ontario is drafting a bill to address harassment by municipal politicians, but Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra said Friday it is proving to be more complex than he thought so it won't be tabled by his self-imposed June deadline.

Calandra said he is reaching out to Ontario's integrity commissioner for recommendations and hopes to be able to consult on it with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and bring a proposal to their August conference. 

"Even the regime surrounding the integrity acts throughout municipalities across the province of Ontario, each of them operates in a different fashion," Calandra said when asked about the issue at an unrelated press conference in Ottawa. 

"There is a lot more work to do on this because the more I look into it, the more disjointed and fragmented the process is and I want to make sure that whatever we do, it is effective, it meets the goals that we're trying to accomplish." 

The Progressive Conservatives had voted down a Liberal private member's bill on the subject, but Calandra later said the government would table its own legislation. 

The Liberal bill from Stephen Blais would have allowed councillors and members of local boards to be fired for violating workplace violence or harassment policies, and could have prevented them from running for re-election.

Blais said Friday that he received a briefing in 2021 from the previous municipal affairs and housing minister's office on some legislation the government had drafted, so he questions why there is still nothing in place.

"I think the complicating factor is the premier simply doesn't believe in it," Blais said.

Answering a question on the topic last week in Ottawa, Premier Doug Ford seemed cool to the idea of the legislation. The voting public are the ones who have the power to remove a councillor, he said.

"That's why we have elections every four years, the people either like you or they don't like you," Ford said. "If they like you you get another chance at it, and if they don't like you, well, you're sitting on the bench somewhere."

A non-partisan group dubbed Women of Ontario Say No has been advocating for the legislation, saying some municipalities have learned the hard way that there are not enough tools to hold politicians accountable for workplace harassment.

"The premise is simple: You should go to work and you should not be subjected to abuse," group member Emily McIntosh said at a press conference earlier this year. 

"We are asking municipally elected representatives to be held to the very same standard as every other working Ontarian."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2024.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Looking for Ontario News? viewed on a mobile phone

Check out Village Report - the news that matters most to Canada, updated throughout the day.  Or, subscribe to Village Report's free daily newsletter: a compilation of the news you need to know, sent to your inbox at 6AM.