POINT OF PRIVILEGE
Mayor deals with point of privilege concern
Two CBRM councillors now believe they aren’t owed apologies.
Two municipal councillors say they don’t believe apologies are owed to them after a controversial exchange at a recent council meeting and they hope to move past the issue.
Last week Dist. 11 Coun. Kendra Coombes introduced a point of privilege regarding the exchange that occurred in the council chamber last month when the nomination of Dist. 8 Coun. Amanda McDougall to the regional solid waste committee versus a more senior member of council who previously sat on the committee but who wasn’t nominated for the position — was debated.
Coombes said she believed McDougall, Dist. 2 Coun. Earlene MacMullin and herself, as well as staff and the citizens of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality were owed an apology for what she considered to be “sexist, inappropriate, and unprofessional language.”
Mayor Cecil Clarke officially responded to Coombes’ point of privilege at a council meeting this week.
Clarke said the issues most of note in Coombes comments were the use of the term sexist and the reference to two other councillors.
He noted that, as part of his due diligence as chair, he wrote to McDougall and MacMullin asking if Coombes’ point of privilege reflected how they felt.
“No, I do not,” MacMullin wrote in her reply to Clarke, which the mayor read into the record of the meeting. “I reviewed the meeting, and although I did not like or agree with some of the statements made, I cannot state the language used was sexist, inappropriate or unprofessional.”
MacMullin noted she has resolved any issues she had with individual councillors.
McDougall replied that while she appreciated what Coombes said, she didn’t agree that any council colleagues had made sexist comments about her. She noted she has had many conversations with other councillors since and they have apologized if she was offended by what they said. She added she thought it was time to move on, as “a great deal of positivity” has come from the day.
Clarke said the debate was duly constituted.
“Debates can be intense and they can be heated, but also parliamentary practice and traditions allow for that, except for when there’s unparliamentary language,” Clarke said.
This week, council was to undergo training on parliamentary procedure including areas such as motions, amendments, effective and ineffective chair, decorum and debate, code of conduct, council-staff relations and meeting distractions.
Clarke noted staff has also followed up with Municipal Affairs which has offered training for councillors on topics including roles and responsibilities, conflict of interest, bylaws and financial literacy. The municipal clerk and diversity officer are also working on diversity and sensitivity training.
Clarke said those processes were underway prior to Coombes raising the point of privilege.
“Debates can be intense and they can be heated, but also parliamentary practice and traditions allow for that, except for when there’s unparliamentary language.” Mayor Cecil Clarke