Calgary city council began in earnest their organizational meeting, with a motion to restrict Coun. Sean Chu’s involvement in two standing policy committees.
The city’s organizational meeting is done to appoint elected members to boards, committees and commissions, beginning this term of council.
Before appointments could begin, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra put forward a motion to limit Coun. Sean Chu’s ability to serve on any of these boards and committees. The motion allowed the pro-tem committee, which puts forward the appointments, to exclude Coun. Chu, if they choose.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek was quick to “decouple” the motion from any specific person and clarified that it gave the pro-tem committee flexibility to make the move.
Coun. Chu has been embroiled in controversy since CBC and CTV stories around his personal contact with a 16-year-old girl back in 1997.
“I think that we have to stand in solidarity with ‘HH’ and we have to stand in solidarity with all members or with all people who have endured sexual assault,” Carra said.
“We need to have systems that respect that and make room for the victims and do not gloss over it.”
The amendment, which was approved 9-6, essentially suspends the city’s procedural bylaw in this specific case, which states that councillors must serve on at least one of the standing policy committees.
Councillors, many of whom were in chambers Monday, had concerns with the motion.
Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp said notwithstanding the situation involving Chu, there’s a concern about elected representation.
“I’m struggling, not so much with the individual, but the community and how we were elected officials, and moving the work forward,” she said.
“I just want to make sure our citizens are taken care of, and I know that that’s why we’re all sitting here, including the councillor we’re speaking about.”
Past is past: Coun. Terry Wong
Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said he wasn’t asked prior to election day about a certain councillor’s past behaviour, nor was he asked to judge it.
“When I was campaigning and talking to my constituents, the fundamental thing that they wanted myself and I’m sure everybody here to do and perform their duties, is to represent the constituents and represent good governance,” he said.
Wong said he’s had past incidents happen to him, years ago. He said he’s learned to move on.
“We’re judging on a fellow councillor’s behaviour today. It should be relevant to today and we can make judgments today,” Wong said.
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said they’re addressing issues within the system that allow incidents like Chu’s to happen.
“We’ve seen this kind of conduct exist, and yet the rules that are in place right now do not apply or give many people very much power to hold anyone responsible,” he said.
“Now, what we’re seeing here, for me, is something very simple. It’s that we are not actually doing anything but adjusting our ability to hold each other accountable.”
Coun. Chu spoke during the meeting, apologizing to council members that they had to deal with this situation. He said being taken out of the opportunity to be on committees was “improper.”
“My intention has always been to serve to the best of my ability the Ward 4 residents and to the citizens of Calgary,” Chu said.
Even if a councillor is not officially appointed to a committee, he or she may still attend and vote if they are present.
Sean Chu issued a tweet on the matter. Apparently, this tweet was subsequently removed. Here were the contents of a statement he made on the matter.
Coun. Kourtney Penner was accepted as chair of the Community Development Committee. Richard Pootmans was elected vice-chair.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra is the chair of the infrastructure and planning committee, Sonya Sharp is the vice chair.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek reiterated Chu’s ability to participate in meetings. He would just lack official designation.
“I can tell you from my own experience, my first year of service, I was on two standing policy committees, purposely where I knew a little bit less about the subject matter. But I would attend the other ones,” she said in her noon scrum with media.
Mayor Gondek also said that they are limited in what they can do. Several councillors publicly said that Chu should resign from council. He has refused to do so thus far.
“This was an effort by council to do what they could. We have very limited abilities and powers as a council. We exercised one of those today,” she said.
When asked about the juxtaposition of most councillors coming out in favour of Chu’s resignation, and then having a 9-6, Gondek said she wasn’t surprised.
“I’m never surprised by anything in council,” she said.
“This was a particularly difficult decision for people and I respect why they made the decisions.”
Couns. Chu, Demong, Sharp, McLean, Wong and Chabot opposed this measure.