Respecting Tay Valley Township Council’s proposed procedural by-lawSeptember 4, 2018
On August 31, 2018, I sent the email and attachment below to Reeve Kerr and the members of Tay Valley Township Council, respecting their proposal for a new procedural by-law, which appears to be outside of the council’s powers to enact, as it appears both unconstitutional, and ultra vires Ontario’s Municipal Act. I told the Reeve and Councillors I would make these materials available online, and so I am doing so.
Dear Reeve Kerr and members of Tay Valley Township Council,
When Tay Valley Township’s [TVT’s] draft procedural bylaw was made public about two weeks ago, it immediately struck me that part of the proposed bylaw (Section 7.7) appears to be designed for the purpose of silencing dissenting speech. I therefore consulted with a lawyer (Alan Riddell of Soloway Wright) about this matter, and he provided me with the attached letter, which indicates that parts of Section 7.7 are a clear violation both of the Charter of Rights and of Ontario law.
I think Mr. Riddell’s summary of the law, from page 4 of his letter, is accurate: “Subsection 7.7 appears, on its face, to be calculated to eliminate political dissent, and therefore its enactment would be in bad faith.”
I urge you, therefore, to either delete this subsection, or to amend it so that it is no longer a tool by which to silence dissent. Such measures are not merely unlawful in a country that prizes free speech and unfettered democratic representation as deeply as Canada; they are also morally indefensible. If a future reeve (whether yourself or another individual) were ever to attempt to make use of Subsection 7.7, it is highly likely that this would result in constitutional litigation, which is enormously expensive—and which the Township would lose.
I will be present at the September 4 meeting, and will repeat my views there, if I am permitted to speak.
I will, at that meeting, also make note of other concerns I have with the bylaw, including the unreasonable restriction, in subsection 7.7.12 and 7.7.13 on the use of recording devices by participants in / viewers of meetings of Council and its committees. I have personally used such a device on several occasions at TVT meetings, and in one case it allowed me to demonstrate that a township official had grotesquely misrepresented my conduct (and that of my wife) at that meeting, as “shocking”, “hostile” and “aggressive.” Stripping citizens of the only weapon they have, that will allow them to truthfully refute untruths told by an employee of TVT Township, seems ill-advised at best. So I urge you to consider eliminating
Better yet, why not simply delay this bylaw entirely, and leave the matter to be decided, after the October election, by a new council with a fresh mandate? (A new council will also have a four-year-long mandate in which to review the existing procedures and amend them on an ad-hoc basis, as dictated by need.) As the senior member of the Procedures and House Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, I have served fourteen years on the committee that reviews the rules of order for the Commons. I can assure you that Parliament would never consider a single omnibus bill to change all aspects of our Standing Orders (ie our rules of order) at one time, and we would never accept a rush schedule in which the rules are introduced in August and rushed through in September.
Tay Valley residents are Canadians too, and they deserve to have their democratic rights, as encapsulated in TVT’s procedural by-law, to be treated with a similar level of concern.
I hope to be present at the September 4th meeting, to express these views to you in person. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the Labour Day weekend.
Scott Reid, MP
p.s. As is my practice, this will be an “open letter”, available online for any Tay Valley resident (or other person) to read.
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