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Question your candidates

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 10:14 -- Dan McCaffery

There’s a question every candidate for Sarnia city council should be asked this fall.

“Do you support the gag order the current council has slapped on municipal politicians?”

And only a one-word answer should be accepted. Yes or No.

Anyone who answers ‘yes’ should be rejected by any voter who values democracy. Anyone who fudges their answer or qualifies it in any way should get the same treatment.

Only those who say unequivocally that they are opposed to this draconian law should even be considered by thoughtful people.

In my opinion, it is the most important issue to come along in a generation.

The law – officially known as the code of conduct -- is absolutely sinister. If council doesn’t take it off the books there’s little doubt it will eventually be struck down by the courts. There’s no way it could stand up to a Supreme Court of Canada challenge because it violates the constitution. But that might not happen for decades. Someone would have to launch the challenge, which would be long and costly.

So we must get rid of it through the ballot box.

Just to remind people what’s at stake here I will quote briefly from a column I wrote about the code of conduct a year ago. Among other things, I said:

Drafted by unelected, highly paid bureaucrats, the code will go a long way toward muzzling politicians and keeping the public in the dark about any number of important issues. Any politician who dares to defy the code could face the city’s so-called ‘integrity commissioner.’ And if you come under his microscope God help you. You just might end up with a $14,000 fine. As it stands now, elected officials will not be allowed to criticize one another – at council meetings or outside city hall. More than that, they’re virtually under orders to support anything council does, whether they agree with it or not. Councillors, the code says, must “accurately communicate the ideas in reports as well as decisions of council even if they disagree with the decisions.” I assume the integrity commission will decide what is ‘accurately’ communicated and what isn’t.

Of the incumbents running this November three opposed the gag order. They include Mayor Mike Bradley and Councillors Andy Bruziewicz and Dave Boushy. I will be voting for all three this time around. I would have supported Mike Kelch, who voted against the code but, unfortunately, he’s not seeking re-election.

Just for the record, I think Bradley has been in office too long. The mayor’s position was never meant to be something you made a career out of. He should have stepped down a decade ago, which would still have made him the longest serving chief magistrate in Sarnia’s history. In fact, if he had left in 2008 Bradley would still have put in 20 years in the top job, or eight more than the second longest serving mayor, the late Bill Nelson.

In normal circumstances I would not vote for Bradley this time around. But getting rid of the gag order is so important that I will reluctantly cast my vote for Mayor Mike. His main opponent, Anne Marie Gillis, is one of the five councillors who voted for the so-called ‘code of conduct.’ No doubt she has done some good over the years, both as a councillor and, before that, as a Catholic school board trustee. But that vote should disqualify her from being re-elected, in my opinion.

So go to meet-the-candidate meetings and ask each candidate “are you in favour of retaining the code of conduct? Yes or no?”

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