Surrey is one step closer to having its own Ethics Commissioner, complete with powers to investigate Surrey council and implement sanctions for any wrongdoing.
Coun. Jack Hundial brought forward the idea at a meeting of council in February, after hearing whisperings of wrongdoing during the campaign for office last year.
His motion to move forward with it in February was unanimously endorsed by council. Hundial said he heard suggestions of impropriety during the campaign. He believes, real or imagined, an ethics commissioner would be an important oversight. “Certainly during the last campaign, there were a lot of allegations being thrown around about impropriety and unethical behaviour,” Hundial told Pulse FM Monday morning.”It seemed like a very fitting and timely piece toward good governance, and keeping in line with other parts of the country.”
As of July last year, all municipalities in Alberta were required to implement a code of conduct, and as of March this year, Ontario was mandated by the province to do the same.
Currently, Surrey is given conflict of interest rules by the province through the Community Charter, and also has a Respectful Workplace Policy, Human Rights Policy and a Lobbyist Registry.
But so far, there is no Code of Conduct (although there is one for staft).
Further, the proposed Code of Conduct would have independent oversight by an Ethics Commissioner, likely a lawyer who specializes in municipal law.
“It would be independent of city staff and elected officials,” Hundial said.
Surrey has earmarked $200,000 for next year’s budget to launch the Ethics Office.
Asked if this could create something so constrictive that it shackled council from doing its job properly, Hundial said it’s something he’d want to keep in check.
“I think that’s a risk… and I think that’s why we want to follow cities that have gone through this process,” Hundial said, adding the city would want to look at best practices, see what has and hasn’t worked and the reasons why.
Surrey will be voting on hiring an independent expert to assist staff in developing a Surrey Code of Conduct.
If endorsed, city staff will also bring forward an additional report on the creation of an Ethics Office in Surrey.