Pressure mounts on province to allow councillors' removal

·1 min read

Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden is calling on the Ford government to change the law to allow municipalities "to remove members of council who have been found guilty of serious acts of misconduct, including sexual misconduct."

Harden, a member of the opposition NDP, tabled his private member's motion in Queen's Park on Wednesday in response to a report from Ottawa's integrity commissioner that found Coun. Rick Chiarelli committed "incomprehensible acts of harassment" against his staff over several years.

Last week, council meted out the most severe sanctions available — suspending the College ward councillor's pay for 180 days — and called for him to resign immediately, which Chiarelli has refused to do.

Council has also asked the provincial government to change the Municipal Act to allow a councillor who has behaved egregiously to be removed from office, a stance that appears to have support from the women involved in the inquiry, some women's organizations, community associations and members of the public.

While Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark also called on the veteran councillor to step down, Clark said he currently has no plans to revisit the law.

"The Rick Chiarelli saga calls for provincial action," Harden said in a statement. "City councils need the power to remove councillors who have committed serious acts of misconduct, including sexual harassment." Harden acknowledged the "incredible courage" of the women who came forward, adding that "what happened to them can never be allowed to happen in the future."

Harden's is the latest voice calling for changes to legislation. Earlier this week, Liberal MPP Stephen Blais, who represents Orléans, stood in the provincial legislature to demand the government amend the law.