Signing on to a new code of conduct isn't a requirement for city council, but a decision to not adopt it would raise questions about why someone chose to run for office, according to committee of the whole.
Members of council met as the less formal committee Tuesday night to flesh out a document aiming to "assure public confidence in the integrity" of the municipal government.
Unlike the oath of office required by the Community Charter, the code of conduct would be "more of an ethical, moral persuasion," agreed legislative services director Walter Babicz.
"The question is why somebody would not sign the document," said Coun. Albert Koehler.
Coun. Garth Frizzell had a variety of themes he was looking to incorporate into the document prepared by staff that was originally presented as part of the core review implementation plan in July.
"I think we need to put our stamp on this document," Frizzell said. "What behaviour do we want to encourage with this code of conduct?"
Councillors attempted to strike a balance between something that was clear in its intent, but also not too complex.
"This document isn't just just meant for those who are sophisticated because they're involved in the process, but it's also for those who want to learn from it," said Coun. Dave Wilbur.
The idea for the code of conduct rose out of the core services review process.
Codes of conduct are most common in Ontario and other provinces, but are gaining in popularity within B.C., said Babicz.
Among the issues debated for the policy included how councillors communicated with staff, which is through the city manager.
Coun. Brian Skakun, who chaired the committee meeting, said he liked the system in place, where information flows through chief administrative officer Beth James.
"It levels the playing field for all councillors," he said, adding that staff can "be put in some pretty awkward positions" if the process isn't followed.
The way council communications with each other is also prescribed in the policy. This includes sharing significant information with each other in advance of meetings where decisions are made.
"If you have a piece of information that you know is going to make or break a decision on an issue and you hang on to it and lob it on the table during a meeting, that might be good politics but it's probably not good public policy, decision making for the rest of us," said Mayor Shari Green.
Another draft of the code, as well as changes to the city's committees, commission and board procedures manual will come back to the committee before going to council for approval.