AMCTO Supports the Women of Ontario Say No (WOSN) Campaign

AMCTO members are well aware of the Association’s history of advocating for strong, stable, and sustainable municipal administration that supports accountable and transparent local government, through clear roles and responsibilities. From clear roles and responsibilities for chief administrative officers to improving council-staff relations overall by clarifying roles between administrative and political responsibilities, AMCTO is proud to be the voice of local government professionals.  

While most council-staff relationships and interactions are positive, respectful, and focused on collaboration to achieve community goals, members are telling us that the overall relationship between elected officials and professional municipal staff is increasingly more confrontational, inside and outside of formal council meetings.  

When abusive or threatening behaviour from a council member is permitted to persist, it creates an unsafe workplace for municipal staff, where there is little opportunity to effectively address council’s behavior, as well as a negative organizational culture, which eventually impacts a municipality’s ability to attract and retain staff to deliver services to the public. 

That is why we participated in the Province’s 2021 consultations on strengthening municipal codes of conduct providing not just an implementation lens on proposals, but also highlighting the need to provide staff with remedies where conflict and harassment may exist in their workplaces. AMCTO recommendations included mandatory code of conduct training for elected officials as well routine commitment to those codes, increased independence for integrity commissioners, and minimum standards for codes of conduct. 

Last week, we joined Emily McIntosh, lead advocate of Women of Ontario Say No (WOSN), in a press conference with opposition party leaders reiterating a call to the Province to prioritize the issue and hold municipally-elected politicians accountable. Currently, there is a lack of tools for holding councillors accountable for workplace harassment. At most, an official can be suspended from pay for 90 days while continuing to participate in certain workplace activities and meetings. 

This is not just a gendered issue, but an issue that affects all municipal staff. No municipal professional should experience fear and be subject to an unsafe workplace. We have heard it is important to our members to support legislation change to improve the ways in which local governments work across the province. When elected officials are accountable for ensuring a harassment-free workplace, the safety and well-being of staff is supported and we create environments where the next generation of municipal leaders can thrive in serving their communities. 

In response to the press conference, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra acknowledged the importance of the legislation and committed to introducing it before the summer. We look forward to seeing what next steps the government will take and will keep you, our members, up to date on how this issue continues to progress.