Hampstead Council adopts a Code of Ethics

2010-08-19

I am very pleased and proud that Hampstead is one of the first municipalities in Quebec to adopt a code of ethics for members of council. The code forbids family members (parents, children or spouses) from working for the town (other than as summer students) or from doing business with the town. It does not allow members of council to receive gifts for work done for the town nor does it allow us the use of non-public information for personal gain. It also spells out how to deal with real or potential conflicts of interest. Finally, it covers the confidentiality of private caucus discussions.

Many people think that existing federal and provincial legislation covers the above but that is not the case. There are enormous holes in current legislation and our code fills those holes. For example, the Cities and Towns Act (CTA) requires us to declare our personal financial interests but not those of spouses, parents or children. Nothing in the CTA prevents a councillor from voting in favour of a contract with a company owned by a spouse. There are numerous other examples of deficiencies in current legislation governing municipal council members. I urge all of you to read the code on our website here.

Only a few days after we passed our code, the Quebec government tabled draft legislation that will require every municipality in the province to adopt a code of ethics. Many suburban Montreal municipalities are studying Hampstead’s code as a model to help them to develop their own codes.

Why is caucus confidentiality important?

In caucus, we try to find the best ways to improve Hampstead. This often involves brainstorming, where councillors must be free to propose ideas without worrying that someone will make the idea public before it is fully debated and agreed upon.

Often a councillor will be candid and tell us that he/she disagrees with a friend/relative who has asked for something. If that information were leaked it would damage the councillor’s personal relationship. This council does what is in the best interests of the majority of residents regardless of who makes a request. That would be much more difficult if confidentiality of caucus discussions were not guaranteed.

We also discuss negotiations with employees, suppliers, other municipalities and even residents. One can only imagine the damage if these discussions were leaked.

Our code does NOT prevent a councillor from expressing his/her own views on any issue to anyone. What is not allowed is talking about how the other members of council voted or what each had said on the issue. That is a very reasonable restriction and is the norm for all caucus meetings everywhere in the world.

Hampstead finances explained

Our 2009 audited financial statements were tabled in June and they can be viewed on our website under Finance and Purchasing on the left side menu. The statements confirm that we are in excellent financial shape. As everyone knows the local tax increase this year was 1.6%, the accumulated surplus is greater than $1.5 million and our long-term debt is dropping. If you would like to hear our 2009 financial statements explained by the town’s external auditors, come to a presentation at 7 pm, Tuesday September 7. Questions will be welcomed.

Fire Station / Town Hall developments

Following a rigorous and lengthy process, the town has hired Robert Libman’s company, Libcorp, to advise us on what to do with the fire station property and what, if anything, to do about the current Town Hall. There will be many consultations, both private and public. I urge you to read the flyer/survey in this newsletter and to complete and return the survey. Even better, attend the consultation meeting which will be hosted by Mr. Libman on Monday, August 30. You can listen, express your views, complete and leave your survey at the meeting. These are very important issues with significant potential benefits to the town. The council wants to hear the views of as many residents as possible.

I would love to hear from you

During last year’s election I spoke to many of you and many of your issues have been addressed already. Many more will be addressed over the next few years. But there is no need to wait four years to speak to me. I can be reached by e-mail, wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or at my home office, day or evening, 7 days a week (514) 483-6954. I am passionate about being your Mayor and there is nothing that I enjoy more than talking about and dealing with Hampstead issues.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead