Sure, let’s cut The Record staff a little slack and accept that the title to the July 7 article “Frisch causes fracas over feelings” is just a silly attempt to introduce a little alliteration and levity into the story about Courtenay Councillor David Frisch’s motion to send an apology to Sandra Hamilton for the verbal bruising she received from Mayor Larry Jangula. Certainly sounds better than “Frisch favours civility as Jangula jabs at jugular”—though the latter more accurately describes David Frisch’s efforts to bring respect and decorum to city council’s relation with those who come before it. 

Unfortunately the article following the facetious headline is as flippantly vacuous as the headline. I highly recommend that anyone interested in understanding how badly decorum at Courtenay City Council has deteriorated go to the video of the May 30 Committee of the Whole meeting  I did and I was shocked at how disrespectful and closed to new information Courtenay Council has become under the combatively ideological leadership of Mayor Jangula.

Let’s be clear because this is, in fact, a very significant issue for Courtenay and any other municipality; a commitment to treat all who come before it with respect—even, especially, those whom a member may disagree with, and to behave with a code of decorum that is fitting of public office. 

Frisch’s motion begins by reminding council of the commitment in their own Official Community Plan to be known as “an inclusive, open and caring community”  and noting that this has to include a commitment to “act with courtesy and respect in dealings with the public, including delegations that appear before Council.”  Frisch softens the motion by not directly naming the Mayor and his belligerence toward the social procurement presenters— most especially Sandra Hamilton– opting, instead, to refer to a “perceived…lack of courtesy and respect” that warrants a letter of apology from council expressing “regret for any comments deemed inappropriate and apologizing for any hurt experienced…by…the delegation.”

            Unfortunately, the Mayor’s supporters on council voted down the apology that any one viewing the video can see was the minimum called for in the face of what was far more than a simple “perceived lack of courtesy”; it was an ill-informed, belligerent, arms flailing, very public affront to the professional credibility of Sandra Hamilton, a widely respected social planner, and a flagrant attack on the very idea of Social Procurement despite the Mayor’s self-confessed ignorance on the topic.

            Of all the comments by councillors on Frisch’s motion for an apology, Erik Eriksson came closest to naming the malaise that is Courtenay Council when he stated that “Hamilton, as an experienced business person, is capable of dealing with issues when they arise.” So respectful behaviour can just be tossed out the door any time an “experienced business person” comes before council?! Is that really a reputation Courtenay Council wishes to court? The interesting thing about Eriksson’s comment is that it, in a backhanded kind of way, acknowledges the over the top behaviour of the mayor before going on to suggest that such belligerent, disrespectful behaviour is just fine as long as council is dealing with experienced business people.  Would it not, then, be only fair and appropriate to forewarn other classes of people council feels comfortable about treating belligerently?

 Councillor Bob Wells, was unwilling to accept even Eriksson’s meekly implied criticism of the mayor’s behaviour stating he  feels the(Mayor’s) “questions were professional and not out of context. “ My gosh, what kind of context could he be thinking of that accepts the Mayor  researching attack points to publicly attempt to besmirch the reputation of a  presenter but—very obviously—expending no effort to research social procurement to even have a vague notion of what it was he was attacking.

Clearly the Mayor could have simply called neighbouring Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird and asked about the accolades Cumberland is receiving for its “innovative leadership” in social procurement.  At minimum Mayor Jangula could have consulted his notes from the recent  Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities meeting where the association enthusiastically explored the billions in stimulus spending about to flow to municipalities  from the federal government and  Prime Minister Trudeau’s specific inclusion of Social Procurement in his mandate letter to Federal Procurement Minister Foote, communicating the need to modernize Public Sector Procurement and signaling a new era for the advancement for Social Innovation and Social Procurement across Canada.”

One has to wonder if Courtenay is ready to turn its back on such financial assistance simply to support the behaviour of an unwilling and ill-informed mayor.

Perhaps the most telling event at the May 30 meeting of Courtenay’s Committee of the Whole was when CAO David Allen, sensing that the meeting had deteriorated disastrously away from the afternoon’s agenda, intervened to try to bring council back to actually trying to understand the value of the stated agenda topic and its relevance to policies Courtenay has in place.

Since council is not willing to make this most appropriate apology, I, as a citizen of our community, want to very publicly apologize to these talented professionals and “business people” for the uninformed and ill mannered verbal abuse they suffered at Courtenay council; a council that is supposed to represent the best of our valley and very clearly does not.

For next week’s post to The Activist we’ll put the indelicacies of Courtenay Council behind us and take a more appreciative look at Social Procurement.