MPP for Orléans tells legislature that in any other workplace, Chiarelli would be fired

Written by Joanne Chianello for CBC

In light of Ottawa’s integrity commissioner’s “shocking and horrific” reports on Coun. Rick Chiarelli’s treatment of former staffers and job applicants, a local MPP is adding his voice to the growing chorus calling for a process allowing the removal of a council member from office after findings of egregious misconduct.

“In any other workplace, a person who harassed and abused employees and coworkers in this way would lose their job, they would lose their title, they would lose their position of authority,” said Stephen Blais, Liberal MPP for Orléans, in the provincial legislature Monday afternoon.

The government must empower municipalities to protect their employees and curb this type of abuse of power.

MPP Stephen Blais

“It’s time that the government set an example and take action and let it be known that elected officials won’t be treated any differently than any other government employees. The government must empower municipalities to protect their employees and curb this type of abuse of power.”

Two separate reports found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking behaviour, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers, and commenting on their bodies.

Calls for Chiarelli’s removal

Council approved the most severe sanctions allowable — suspending Chiarelli’s pay for about 15 months, or 180 days for each of the five formal complainants against him.

But many feel those penalties don’t go far enough in this instance. The women involved in the inquiry, as well as Ottawa city council, are calling for changes to the Municipal Act to allow for a process that would remove a councillor where serious misconduct has been found. 

Blais, the city councillor for Orléans before winning the provincial byelection in February, said a system must be put in place “to stop elected officials from abusing the trust and authority placed in them — and if necessary, remove them from office for violating this trust.”

In written a public statement in October 2019,  Chiarelli denied all accusations. He is challenging the integrity commissioner’s jurisdiction in this matter in court, and a preliminary hearing is set for mid-January. 

Last week, council also called for the College ward councillor to resign immediately, but Chiarelli said in a statement he has no intention of doing so. 

And while Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark also called on Chiarelli to resign, he said in a statement that the ministry is not looking at making any changes to the legislation right now.