The unelected Chair of York Regional Council, Wayne Emmerson, last week apologised to elected members for slapping them down in public. He says sometimes he just loses it. 

Joe Li and Jack Heath have been recent targets of Emmerson’s ire. 

Emmerson has a tendency to hurry Heath along, urging him to get to the point.

Jack Heath can be a tad long-winded at times but I find him thoughtful and always worth listening to. 

Wayne “Back from the Dead” Emmerson has his favourites. He always defers to Markham’s Mayor, Frank Scarpitti, who can drone on interminably. I’ve never heard Emmerson utter a single critical word about Scarpitti, York Region’s capo di tutti capi and the highest paid Mayor in Ontario. Maybe that’s because Frank gets more money in pay and benefits than Emmerson’s $281,938. I haven’t checked recently.

Against streaming

Both were dead against the live streaming of York Council and Committee meetings and now we know why. Frank didn’t think he was pretty enough for the TV cameras and Emmerson, on his own admission, can be a bit bossy.

“Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had an opportunity to look at the tapes of what’s gone on and re-visit some of the tapes and I have to say to you that some comments have been made to me that (I’ve made) too many comments and I do apologise if I’ve hurt your feelings or done anything different. I sometimes lose it. We go on. So I’ll do my best not to make as many comments.” 

“And the other thing is I try never ever to cut you off. And I do apologise to Councillor Heath the other day about some of the things said. I will do better as we go forward. Just so you are aware of that.”

Emmerson is currently the only member of the Regional Council not to be subject to a Code of Conduct. All the others are covered by the Codes that operate in their home municipalities (which Emmerson doesn’t have).

Naughty Boy!

But now the Region is being forced by law to bring in a Code of Conduct for its members. And not before time. A few years ago the Regional Councillor for Vaughan, Michael Di Biase, was docked three month’s pay in his home municipality for interfering with the tendering process. Naughty boy! But his York Region salary – or “stipend” – remained untouched. 

And when the draft Code was brought forward for approval there were all sorts of squeals and protests.

Emmerson immediately established some kind of “working group”. I’ve no idea who is on it nor how they were selected. Nor its terms of reference. He mumbles to his colleagues:

“We did have a small working group and we kinda went through it (the draft Code of Conduct) and we made some more or less adjustments but we have another meeting scheduled for April 11 after the Committee of the Whole and we hope to be able to bring a report to Council on April 18 to finally understand what the Code of Conduct is. But we’ll have (indistinct)”

“But this is Council’s Code and this is why the Committee kinda wanted to make sure we had a bit more time with it…. It is back on the agenda (today) because we said we’d bring it back on March 21.”

The Municipal Act requires all municipalities to establish a Council Code of Conduct by March 1, 2019. 

Let’s hope York Region can agree its first ever Code of Conduct by April 18, 2019.

But don’t count on it.

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