Politician can’t be so sensitive, Bishop tells Harvie


Re: Harvie says claims against him are ‘baseless and shameful,’ Oct. 4

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I am a two-term councillor with seven years’ elective experience on Delta council, currently seeking election as mayor.

George Harvie, Delta’s former city manager who never has held elective office but currently is a candidate for mayor, claimed that public scrutiny of his actions while working as a city employee was “nasty politics,” “baseless,” “shameful,” and, most surprisingly, “a personal attack on my character, dignity and leadership.”

My response to Harvie’s overly-sensitive, disproportionate response is this: Public scrutiny is essential to public service.

Harvie’s actions as a Delta city employee became a topic of public interest in mid-August when a letter written by Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore to Delta Mayor Lois Jackson revealed that an un-named Delta official had “strenuously objected” to an air-quality permit for Enviro-Smart, the Ladner composting facility whose foul odour has long irritated nearby residents.

It soon became known that Harvie was the un-named official, and soon thereafter a second Metro Vancouver document – an internal memo written by environmental manager Ray Robb – publicly released stated that Harvie also had opposed “the notion of any public consultation” regarding Enviro-Smart’s air permits or solid waste licenses.

Harvie responded by stating the “public record shows that I received direction from city council ....” This statement surprised the elected members of council, and in response four councillors – Robert Campbell and I (both members of Team Delta), as well as Jeannie Kanakos and Bruce McDonald – requested additional information and/or proposed remedial action.

I held a news conference and outlined an “Action Plan for Ethical Local Government,” whereby Delta could prevent future abuses of authority by either elected officials or un-elected senior managers.

Harvie responded, as stated above, by declaring our actions “nasty” and “a personal attack.”

To be clear, all of the individuals referred to in this letter now are candidates for public office –Harvie and I are running for mayor, while Campbell, Kanakos and McDonald are seeking re-election as councillors. All of us, except for Harvie, have considerable experience as publicly-elected representatives.

I believe this largely explains Harvie’s exaggerated, overly-sensitive response to questions regarding his conduct as a city employee. He seems to have no concept – or, to be charitable, is simply unaware – of what it means to be accountable to the public.

Being a servant of the public means listening to voters and taxpayers; it means subverting one’s own ego to the best interests of our community; and it means graciously – if not happily – accepting criticism and scrutiny.

As the story in the Optimist sadly shows, Harvie has much to learn about both public service and public accountability.

Sylvia Bishop

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