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Mar 5 , 2018

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The Unbearable Daftness of Matt Whitman & his detractors

by Andrew Douglas
The Unbearable Daftness of Matt Whitman & his detractors
 
It seems likely that Halifax municipal taxpayers will soon be on the hook for the salary of a full-time integrity commissioner, whose job it would be to referree spats between outraged tweeters and duly elected councillors. A good use of circa-$80,000/year, surely.
It’s an idea that’s been knocking around for seven or eight years now, the general concept of having someone to decide when a councillor has done wrong, and determine the proper course of action. The role exists in places like Toronto, so an integrity commissioner would be one more step toward world-class status for Halifax, which enacted its Code of Conduct for Elected Municipal Officials in 2013.
If the title of that document is familiar, that’s because it’s what was used to ever-soslightly slap the wrist of Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets Councillor Matt Whitman the other day after councillors deliberated in secret for hours to ponder the no-doubtsage words of the dozens of social media denizens who voiced their disgust with the beleaguered politico.
In a media scrum after council rendered its decision — Matty would be taken off committees for three months (he’s on one committee) and not lose any pay (committees don’t pay extra) — Mayor Mike Savage said he’d be open to revisiting the idea of a toothless official to sift through meaningless complaints under a toothless policy.
Just as the complaints pertaining to Matt and his fellow councillors Waye Mason and Shawn Cleary were dealt with in secret, the contents of the complaints themselves are secret, as well.
Luckily there are people like Amanda Doddsworth and Paul Vienneau around.
Amanda, who you might remember for organizing the Lenehan decision protests last year, posted her complaint on Twitter for all to see. Her opener is a doozy, positing that, due to Whitman’s constant idiot eruptions, he’s either not smart enough to govern, a racist, or both.
She then proceeds to list off his by-now well-known incidents, including the latest, his retweet of the opinion of a “known hate group” on the removal of the Cornwallis statue.
Are listicles of already-known incidents that offend you worthy of a formal complaint? Apparently so. 
Matt says he didn’t check to see who was tweeting the opinion. And the opinion itself wasn’t particularly offensive. Still, a public official should have the common sense to tread carefully in this day and age. There are landmines everywhere, and he seems to find all of them. And when there are none around, he builds one in his garage, then jumps on it.
As for Mr. Vienneau, he seems a little squirrely these days. Must be this season’s relative lack of snowfall.
Paul, you might remember, is the paraplegic who was given the mantle of “Asshole with a Shovel” during the winter of 2015 when he took it upon himself to chip away at Halifax’s ice-coated city sidewalks. Since then, the musician and photographer has fashioned himself into more of an allpurpose activist.
He tweets about disability issues — recently he tweeted at The Rock, concerned for some reason that he’s an able-bodied man who will play an amputee in his next film role — and last fall he organized some sort of love-fest at the Halifax Forum for some reason. Frank was there and we didn’t even know what it was about.
Pertaining to the pile-up on Whitman, Vienneau has identified himself as one of the complainants, and managed to get himself interviewed by CTV’s Bruce Frisko the other night. Vienneau’s soundbite consisted of complaining that Whitman blocks everyone on Twitter. Something people have been complaining about for years.
If these examples of “official complaints” are representative of the dozens received — a complete absence of new information, just a repetition of what everyone else is on about — a new position needn’t be created to ponder them. Any random City Hall communictions lackey can take two minutes out of each week in order to give them all the attention they deserve.
 
In party politics, the collection of head-scratching gaffes — Twitter- blocking aside — that former Sun Life insurance salesman Matt has accrued could well get him booted out of caucus. Or a stern talking-to with the threat of same. But in municipal government, there is no such stick to keep him in line. So, what to do?
Well, the Code of Conduct doesn’t have much in the way of arrows in its quiver. Council can censure the offending councillor, request that they apologize to the offended parties, demand that they attend counselling, or remove him from committees. That’s it, that’s all. Unless he or she is convicted of a crime, a Nova Scotia municipal councillor cannot be removed from office. And why should it be any different?
On your ballot on election day, an “X” marked next to the name of  your favourite candidate means you voted for that person. A blank box means you didn’t. There’s no waffling. You can’t tick a box marked “Conditional: unless I decide he’s an idiot and/or he says ‘negro’ on TV.”
Whoops. Didn’t mean to give Doddsworth and Vienneau something else to rally for...
 
 

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