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Whitman starts off council with apology, but former candidate says more needs to be done

Pamela Lovelace, who ran against Whitman in the last municipal election, says there's no ability to enforce the Code of Conduct for Elected Municipal Officials
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Matt Whitman,ccouncillor for District 13, Hammonds Plains – St. Margarets (Halifax.ca)

A local advocate is calling for changes to the Code of Conduct for Elected Municipal Officials.

Pamela Lovelace said she's written to the mayor about what she calls the "shameful behaviour" of councillor Matt Whitman.

Last week, Whitman got into a Twitter feud with councillor Shawn Cleary over racism and use of the word "marijuana", Whitman was interviewed by CTV Atlantic about the issue, where he said “Mexican” isn't a race, but “negro” is.

Tuesday's council meeting started off with an apology from Whitman, saying his comments were not meant to hurt, demean or disparage anyone.

But Lovelace, who ran against Whitman in the last municipal election, said more needs to be done.

She said the apology seems to address his Twitter behaviour, but does little in regards to what he said in the television interview, or the following statement he issued to defend the use of the term. 

"It's clear he requires education in anti-oppression, use of inclusive language, and understanding the impact his actions have on those with lived racialized experience," she told HalifaxToday.ca.

Lovelace said part of the problem is that the municipal code of conduct has no teeth.

The code states councillors should treat every person "with dignity,understanding and respect and ensure that their work environment is free from discrimination, bullying and harassment," it also says they must "observe a high standard of professionalism." 

"There is no mechanism whatsoever within Halifax council to force a councillor to follow that code of conduct," she told NEWS 95.7.

"The mayor is in a really tough position because he doesn't have any authority has a figurehead to force a councillor to do anything."

Lovelace is chair of Equal Voice Nova Scotia, an organization dedicated to electing more women to public office, she said this type of behaviour discourages women to run for government.

In his apology, Whitman said he would follow the advice Mayor Savage gave on using social media in an interview on The Rick Howe Show, "read twice and send once."




Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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