Council Needs to do Better – This is Not a Junior High

On Tuesday, January 21st at the Priorities and Finance Committee meeting it was stated that “this is not a junior high”.

Council was tasked with updating our policy on alcohol use in the workplace.  While bringing the policy up to date was the goal, what unfolded that morning was the most embarrassing thing I have seen in my time as a Councillor.

We should have had a professional discussion on how members of Council needed to update policy to be more in line with other modern professional environments.  What we got instead were unfounded accusations that referenced wild parties and other behaviour that would be firing offences in other offices.

Changing this policy had absolutely nothing to do with a battle of the sexes.  A previous Alderman in the very office that I sit in today was noted for her chain smoking and swearing in the work place, and people loved her.  This person worked in a very different environment than we currently have today.  The reality today is very simple; the professional dynamic of what is acceptable in a place of business has changed dramatically.

The policy update was really a no brainer; an update to the policy was something Council was very supportive of.  The record shows that members of this Council, both male and female, voted in favour of changing the existing policy.  The outcome of the policy discussion at hand was greatly overshadowed by the side show that unfolded on Tuesday morning.  If the issue had been  managed more effectively we could have avoided turning this into a front page joke that reflected poorly on every member of this Council.

Personally I am not opposed to the occasional alcoholic beverage, but you won’t find any alcohol in my office at City Hall nor will you find me partaking in consumption at City Hall.  Some members of this Council have suggested that it is acceptable to offer an alcoholic beverage  to a visiting MLA or MP in order to get more information.  This practice is not something I agree with.  While I understand that historically alcohol consumption was common practice in the workplace, I do not believe that this practice is still appropriate at City Hall.

This will be my fifth year on Council and I can say with confidence from my time here that the suggestion that these behavioral problems are systemic and common place are not only false, but highly irresponsible.  We all have a responsibility to make sure we are creating a work environment where Councillors and staff can feel safe and respected.  We also have a responsibility as Council to focus on making Calgary a better place instead of resorting to childish name calling and petty gossip.

The debate on Tuesday degenerated into utter nonsense, and the committee lost focus on what our true objective was.  It was embarrassing for every member of Council, it was embarrassing for the City of Calgary, and it was embarrassing for every Calgarian that calls this great city home.  As a Council we need to do better.

I was a principal at a junior high, and I can assure you that what took place on Tuesday morning did not look like junior high…it looked much worse.