Peck's report released: will the windbaggery begin again?

Post by Mike Klassen in

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windbags

As CityCaucus.com reported this weekend, the report completed and submitted to the City of Vancouver on March 11th by Richard Peck Q.C., has finally been released publicly after being held back by City Manager Penny Ballem. The Vancouver Sun reported on the report's final release on Monday night.

Peck's report is sure to stir controversy if the windbaggery of the January 30, 2007 City Council meeting is any indication. First let's take a look at the recommendations Peck's interim report, which are eerily similar to a 2007 Council motion on a similar topic, the confidentiality of Council's in-camera meetings.

Peck's report opens with an poignant and revealing quote from Samuel Johnson:

"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge with integrity is dangerous and dreadful."

Peck goes on to make a number of practical suggestions to enhance the security of the documents, such as limiting the circulation, colour coding pages, numbering documents and printing "confidential" right on the pages. He points to the City of Toronto's system for keeping documents under wraps as a good example for Vancouver. Then he strays into matters of trust, proposing that staff training around in-camera confidentiality is regularly conducted, and that political staff are bound by the same ethical guidelines Councillors and other City staff must swear an oath to. Peck also:

  • Recommends the hiring of an integrity or ethics commissioner
  • Recommends the City asks the Province to update the Vancouver Charter with a new Code of Conduct, and
  • That the Charter prescribes specific penalties for breeches of the Code

Peck's last word is that "City business ultimately depends on the personal integrity of those charged with the responsiblity of carrying out." Ooh. Is that a hint or what?

Hey, no problem, right? Let's all get on board with some stiffer rules around conduct to prevent a few bad apples from leaking those details of in-camera meetings.

Not so fast. We've been here before. Let's get into the City Hall Time Machine and go back to a very painful, long Council meeting full of some of the worst grandstanding 12th & Cambie has seen.

In a January 2007 regular meeting of City Council then rookie City Councillor Kim Capri, with one-year of Council experience under her belt, put forward a motion recommending that the City asks the Province to update the Vancouver Charter around in-camera meeting confidentiality.

Capri, with the fresh eyes only a newbie can usually bring to a matter, realized that after several leaks of in-camera meeting details (that usually found their way into Courier columns) that it might be time to update the rules. It surprised her, she stated in the Council meeting, that there were no clear penalties for breaking these rules.

Capri's motion read as follows:

Council request the Provincial Government to clarify the Oath of Office for Council Members and establish deterrent penalties in the Vancouver Charter for the deliberate breach of confidentiality by a member of Council, including:

1) Amending the prescribed Oath of Office for elected officials to make it
clear that there is a duty to respect confidentiality where that confidentiality is required or authorized by the Vancouver Charter or other legislation;

2) To establish penalties for the breach of confidentiality as in (1) including such penalties as:

a. enabling Council to prohibit attendance at closed meetings of Council by the Mayor or another member of Council who has breached the confidentiality of closed council meetings;

b. enabling Council to withhold confidential documents and records from a member of Council who has deliberately breached the confidentiality of confidential documents, records, or discussions or who has failed to properly secure such documents and records in his or her possession; and

c. enabling a Court to disqualify a member of Council from holding office for deliberately breaching confidentiality.

Capri's motion in short asked the Province to put some teeth on the rules around confidentiality. After tabling her motion, the Vision/COPE opposition pounced. For almost an hour Capri sat in the meeting, with the patience of Job I might add, and listened to her fellow Councillors deride and belittle her as an amateur with an agenda to conduct criminal investigations. You can check out the entire video of the meeting, but we caution viewers that it is painful to watch.

Here are some memorable audio clips instead:

Councillor David Cadman slams Capri's motion with the subtlety of a sledgehammer (clip).

Councillor Tim Stevenson cites the great history of Vancouver's Council and regards Capri's motion as an affront on the dignity of City Hall (clip).

Councillor Heather Deal mocks Capri and dismisses the motion as an attack on the reputations of her colleagues (clip).

So after so much windbaggery, how does Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Council react to Peck's recommendations? More windbaggery? An attack on Peck's reputation and his naive recommendations?

Oh baby, I can't wait.

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