The Pickering City Council Meeting, June 26, seemed to be a “town hall,” in that, its atmosphere was a constant near boiling over the edge. The atmosphere was kept from becoming more volatile and vitriolic because of the strict maintenance of order by the chair, Mayor Ashe. Nevertheless, the threat of contents boiling over was nearby throughout the meeting.
The focus of the meeting was primarily on the LGBTQ+ community. Nineteen delegations made presentations at the meeting, 13 of which dealt with the LGBTQ+ and the polarization stemming from the Councilor Lisa Robinson’s flag raising incident at the Durham School Board.
Rather than deal with each delegation in detail [The full minutes can be accessed at Pickering.ca ], this report will try to convey the atmosphere and an overview of the council meeting.
Council and community divided over support for Councilor Robinson
Delegations opposed to Councillor Robinson outnumbered her supporters, 8-5.
The opposition delegates arguments were based on equity and support of the LGBTQ+ community. They represented a range of community groups from social to religious to Pflag. The tone taken also ranged from objective and neutral to assertive and emphatic.
The supporters of Robinson or her views found basis in protection of children arguments, views taken by parents with gender identification instances, the division of council, and freedom of expression.
Mayor Ashe at times had to invoke moderator regulations to calm the growing assertiveness of some delegates, but for the most part, delegates were respectful of the council meeting rules and the council members.
There were a number other issues on the meeting agenda: air quality toxicity, bylaw amendments.
For the most part, council members merely listened and absorbed the delegate information. However, a number of times, Councilor Brenner took pains to underline that he had no connection with the delegations’ initiatives. His point was that the initiatives were constituent-based rather than originating either with him or his office.
For the most part, delegates were respectful of the council members and focused on presenting their case. Very few deviated from this attitude. One cleric presented an anti-Robinson case that bordered on being a homily, but the universality of his message was accepted by the majority of meeting attendees.
Emotional presentation was unavoidable in a few cases. Afterall, the major issue of support or opposition to the LGBTQ+ community is an emotionally-intense and very volatile subject.
[The following is the EDITORIAL opinon.]
Issues relating to the LGBTQ+ community are loaded with emotion and passion. The result has polarized and divided the City’s councilors. Councilor Robinson seems to be isolated in her position of opposing singling out any one group at the expense of other community groups. The councilors’ motion to rescind Councilor Robinson from the Safety and Well-being committee seems to imply she is to being punished for her position. [Councilor Robinson resigned from the committee of her own accord.]
The majority of the residents who are interested in council affairs and who follow its work, may be disappointed with the effect these social issues have had on council unity. Regardless of which side one supports, the disappointment may be that our political leaders seem unable to compromise and empathize with each other. Senior councilors who should be leading the way to collaboration, compromise and corroboration have abrogated their responsibility. They seem to have yielded to an emotional battle determined to assert that their view should dominate and win. Such an atmosphere can only bode ill for the future unity of the Pickering City council.