Sylvia Bishop is promising to enshrine ethical conduct in city law if elected Delta mayor.
At a press conference in Ladner this morning, the Team Delta mayoral candidate announced that, if elected, she will create an ad hoc standing committee as a first step towards drafting an “Ethical Local Government Bylaw” that would apply to all elected and senior non-elected city officials.
Members would be appointed to Bishop’s proposed mayor’s standing committee on ethical local government shortly after the new council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5 and would have four months to craft their report, which would in turn be used to write the new bylaw.
“Bylaws such as these are increasingly common in municipalities across Canada, and in recent years the Union of B.C. Municipalities has produced a number of policy papers on the topic, so we’re not alone in this endeavour,” Bishop said.
“My sense is that the time for leadership on this issue has arrived in Delta, and to that end I pledge that council and senior staff soon will have an ‘Ethical Local Government Bylaw’ that will guide and govern the conduct of everyone in whom Delta residents have placed their trust.”
Bishop said the committee and ensuing bylaw is a natural extension of the code of ethical conduct that her slate unveiled and signed on July 5, wherein candidates pledged to comport themselves throughout the campaign with honesty, integrity, openness, respect for the law, co-operation, selflessness, objectivity, accountability and leadership.
The controversy surrounding the Enviro-Smart Organics composting facility in Ladner, Bishop said, has made the need for such measures all the more clear.
For more than a year, Ladner residents have been dealing with odours coming from the facility and have sent hundreds of letter to city council about the issue. In late August, new correspondence from Metro Vancouver came to council about a meeting back in 2013, which indicated that then-CAO George Harvie had attended a meeting and “strenuously objected” to Enviro-Smart needing to get an air quality permit from the regional authority.
Harvie, currently running for mayor with Achieving for Delta, has since responded to comments made by several councillors running for re-election, saying that he was acting under council’s direction. Counc. Robert Campbell, who is running with Bishop on the Team Delta ticket, has filed a Freedom of Information request with Metro Vancouver for any paperwork pertaining to the 2013 meeting and has asked Harvie to produce documents supporting his claim that he was there on council’s authority.
“It remains to be seen whether by [Oct. 20] Mr. Harvie will have answered any or all of the questions raised by his conduct in 2013, and especially his alleged opposition to public consultation over an air quality permit for Enviro-Smart. Certainly, there can be little question that Delta residents and voters would welcome a full clearing of the air, as it were, before they cast their ballots in October,” Bishop said.
Harvie, who was unavailable for comment, had previously said in an email to the Reporter that “the allegations levelled against me by political opponents of duping council, or not keeping the public involved, are categorically untrue, which is supported by the public record. The meeting in question, which dates back five years, has never been brought forward as a concern until I announced my run for mayor.”
Achieving for Delta campaign staff said Harvie will be releasing a statement about this issue “based on facts” by Thursday, Sept. 27, after the Reporter’s press deadline.
Bishop, meanwhile, said she’s worried about the “corrosive aspects” of the issue, saying it diminishes the public’s confidence in Delta city hall.
“It has become a matter of trust, and that’s what I believe the local government campaign currently underway in the city of Delta has now become. With just 26 days to go before the ballots are counted on Oct. 20, this election has become about trust and how we all must work together to ensure that the Delta residents can retain — or regain — their trust in our city hall.”
The civic election will take place on Oct. 20, with advance voting on Oct. 6, 10 and 11.
— with files from Grace Kennedy