WINNIPEG – Elected councillors in Manitoba face tougher sanctions for bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton says a review of current laws is being done with the aim of beefing up rules and penalties. Municipalities across the province have codes of conduct for elected council members, but Wharton says enforcing violations has been a challenge.
Municipal officials and staff have voiced concerns about bad behaviour at the council level for years.
Reeve Jackie Hunt in the RM of Ritchot stepped down last April and was followed by two other council members. Hunt said at the time that two of Ritchot’s councillors were belligerent towards her and called her names, although they said that wasn’t true.
Ernie Dumaine and Corinne Webb said strong opinions were expressed at a council meeting over the construction of an outdoor hockey rink in St. Adolphe.
“All elected officials are expected to govern in the best interests of their communities and our government has been very clear all employees have a right to a respectful workplace,” Wharton said Monday.
He couldn’t say when changes to legislation could come, but added the consultations will be done across the province in June and September.
Chris Goertzen, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, said breaches of workplace rules are rare, but he acknowledged that current policies don’t have many teeth.
“There are very few tools to use to actually enforce the code of conduct and that actually have some consequences,” he said. “That’s something we’ve identified with the province (to) make sure that everyone has a safe work environment.”
Possible sanctions could range from fines to suspensions to having to vacate a seat.