News from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large
Posted April 23rd, 2021
Niagara Region’s Council has decided to take one of its members participation in a recent anti-lockdown rally to its integrity commission for a probe into a possible violation of the Region’s code of conduct rules.
The Regional Council member under the gun is David Bylsma, who also serves as West Lincoln’s mayor, and the rally he played a prominent role in involved several hundred Niagara area residents, most of them not wearing masks, gathering in St. Catharines on April 10th to protest recent COVID-19 stay-at-home and lockdown rules in place across the province.
Bylsma’s involvement in the rally, which included him leading the gathering in a chant of ‘stop the lockdowns’, received widespread criticism. It also drew statements of disapproval from St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik and Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley.
Many accused Bylsma of showing poor leadership at a time when everyone across Niagara and the province is being asked to stay at home as much as possible and avoid large gathering in the wake of a third wave of a pandemic that is producing record numbers of COVID-19 cases in Ontario.
The Region’s Council overwhelmingly approved a motion, tabled by St. Catharines Regional Councillor George Darte and seconded by Port Colborne Regional Councillo Barbara Butters, to send the issue to the integrity commissioner at a special meeting this April 22nd.
After tabling the motion, Darte, whose family works in the funeral service business, says the family has held funerals for about 22 per cent of the almost 400 Niagara residents who have died from COVID-19 over the 13 months, and he has witnessed the grief of surviving family members.
“This (pandemic) is not a hoax,” said Darte in apparent response to news that at least some at the St. Catharines rally were calling it a hoax.
The only council member voting against the move was Bylsma himself, who was also recently slapped with a charge by Niagara Regional Police for breaching the province’s current COVID restrictions.
Following the coouncil’s vote this April 22nd on the code of conduct matter, Niagara’s regional government circulated the following news release –
Regional Council’s statement on its code of conduct
As required by the Municipal Act, 2001, Niagara Regional Council has a formal code of conduct that each member committed to following when being sworn into office. The code spells out what is considered acceptable conduct and the expectation is that every member will follow it closely.
We believe that the standards outlined in our code serve to enhance the public’s confidence in the Region, as well as ensure members conduct themselves with integrity.
As Regional Councillors, we are required to accurately communicate the decisions of council, even if we may disagree with the outcome.
All members are expected to be mindful of the importance of their duties, and the influence they have in the community. Those who hold elected office are seen as leaders within their municipalities and should conduct themselves in a way that maintains and promotes the public’s trust.
We take breaches of the code seriously.
Councillors are entitled to due process under the Municipal Act and we rely on the services of an Integrity Commissioner to provide us with advice before taking any actions. When a Councillor is found to have contravened our code of conduct by the Integrity Commissioner, it
reflects poorly on that individual member, on Regional Council and ultimately on our entire community.
In our role as Niagara’s Board of Health, we are committed to supporting all Public Health directives and fostering an environment where the public can have confidence in Ontario’s health system. We are responsible for upholding all relevant provincial legislation, as well as ensuring the community’s health needs are being met.
Finally, all members of council, without exception, are expected to follow all federal, provincial and municipal statutes at all times. Members are expected to educate themselves on all relevant policies and legislation, and conduct themselves in a way that does not contravene the law.
Niagara At Large will be posting more on this story soon. Stay tuned.
For a related story posted earlier this month on Niagara At Large, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2021/04/16/breaking-news-some-of-niagaras-anti-lockdown-demonstrators-slapped-with-provincial-summons-could-face-fines-of-up-to-100000/ .
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