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‘We’re not elected to squabble’: Langford councillor to pitch code of conduct

Lillian Szpak says proposal would help ensure councillors debate in respectful manner
Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak wants to see a code of conduct for council members instituted for meetings, to ensure civil discussion. (Black Press Media file photo)

Tensions between several members of Langford city council bubbled up again last week.

Monday’s council meeting began with Coun. Lillian Szpak bringing forward a notice of motion to propose the introduction of a code of conduct for councillors, at the next council meeting.

The move received pushback from Mayor Stew Young. He said notices of motion had to be submitted in writing prior to the meeting, adding that Szpak attempted to add a notice of motion for a tree enhancement bylaw at the Jan. 10 meeting without first notifying city staff. Szpak disputed the lack of notification, and promised to submit a notice of motion in writing before the next meeting.

“I think it has to be fair that you don’t bring stuff to the council meeting and sidestep staff, they’re part of the process,” Young said.

In an interview with Black Press, Szpak said she brought forward the notice of motion after a heated exchange during the Jan. 10 meeting, where Coun. Lanny Seaton accused her of having a conflict of interest in proposing a tree enhancement bylaw, because a family member had posted in a Facebook group calling for a similar bylaw. Szpak said she found the exchange “disturbing” and that a code of conduct is needed to ensure council acts in a “decorous and respectful way.”

“We’re not elected to squabble and have disputes in public, we’re elected to debate in a respectful manner what is on the table,” she said. “I think that your community will lose confidence if they think, ‘Oh, this is council, all they do is they squabble and they let personal issues get in the way.’”

The Union of BC Municipalities has workshops on council conduct which could help improve the situation, Szpak added. COVID-19 and the proliferation of people criticizing council on social media has also fuelled tensions among councillors, she said.

“There’s a command and control feeling from the chair, which I think is not conducive to good open dialogue.”

In an interview Young acknowledged there had been tension with some councillors who didn’t agree with the rapid development that’s been happening in Langford in recent years.

“It hasn’t been easy this year because some of the councillors have been combative, I guess you might call it, with what’s going on,” he said. “But that’s natural. Eventually, Langford will probably be like the other municipalities around us that really don’t get much done and (are) complaining. I’m just not like that. I move forward and have a solution.

“I’ve got broad shoulders; nobody has to agree with me, but this is the path that I’ve taken for 30 years and it’s brought Langford to a great space,” Young added.

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