Lambton county councillor says anti-harassment bill could be ‘weaponized’

A screenshot of Lambton Shores Mayor Doug Cook (left) objecting to Sarnia City/County Councillor Bill Dennis' line of questioning about an anti-harassment bill.

A Lambton County councillor says a bill to allow municipal councillors removed from office if they violate workplace violence and sexual harassment rules could be weaponized against local politicians.

A group called Women of Ontario Say No is backing a private members bill from MPP Stephen Blais which will permit municipalities to direct their Integrity Commissioners to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat for violating the municipality’s workplace violence and harassment policies. It’s called the Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act.

Right now, the most severe penalty the Integrity Commission can impose is suspending a municipal council member’s pay for 90 days.

Tamara Batryn of Women of Ontario Say No came to Lambton County council April 5 to ask for the county to support for the bill.

Sarnia City/County Councillor Bill Dennis voiced concern asking why it wasn’t extended to federal and provincial politicians. “Given the activity of our prime minister and some of the MPs and MPPs … those guys should have been turfed long ago, because some of the behaviour they have exhibited.”

Dennis suggested the legislation could be “weaponized” against politicians.

“In politics today, there’s a lot of people out to get you and I’m afraid that this could be weaponized. You know, we’re seeing a bit of a gong show in the United States right now – maybe a lot of people don’t like the president, former president – but it looks like that it is totally political persecution.” President Donald Trump is facing 34 felony charges after allegedly characterizing a payment to two women to stay quiet about sexual encounters as business expenses.

“I just see that this (bill) could be used as a way to get back at people that you don’t like,” Dennis added says.

The Sarnia City/County councillor then suggested former premier Kathleen Wynne was behind the bill which has only had a brief introduction in the Ontario Legislation in August 2022. Her name does not appear on the bill.

“Keep in mind, (Wynne’s) government was one of the most corrupt and provincial in history, she had a member go to jail, and quite honestly, she had an attorney general that hit a cyclist and killed,” he said.

Lambton Shores Mayor Doug Cook interrupted Dennis’ comments asking Warden Kevin Marriott “can we stop this conversation?”

Dennis replied “This (the bill Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders) is a kind of serious thing here. But, I just reminding people that when you point your finger at one person, there’s always three people responding back. Liberals don’t like hearing the truth.”

Warwick Mayor Todd Case then asked for county councillors to offer a letter of support for the bill “for very obvious reasons from some of the things we’ve seen today.”

The motion passed.

You can see the conversation here starting at the 1:31 mark.