Codes of Conduct

What are the standards by which the public should measure elected officials, public servants, public bodies, and corporations? This page will carry both actual and a citizen’s “wish list” of codes of conduct when it comes to processes relating to rezoning and development applications. The purpose of this page is to inform citizens about the standards of behavior that the our civil society should be able to expect of the key players in the development process. (The comment function is turned on, so CityHallWatch welcomes your input (suggestions, web links, questions, etc.) here, or by e-mail directly to citizenYVR@gmail.com.) We will also provide links to mechanisms that can be accessed in the case of concerns.

Important codes of conduct cover…

  • elected officials, city staff, advisory bodies
  • developers
  • professional planners, architects, etc.
  • public employees
  • marketers and pollsters
  • media (new)
  • realtors (new)

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1. CITY OF VANCOUVER CODE OF CONDUCT, POLICY NUMBER AE-028-01
PURPOSE: To set minimum expectations for the behaviour of Council officials, staff and advisory body members in carrying out their functions.
SCOPE: All City staff, Council officials and advisory body members.
EXCERPT
1.1 Integrity: Council officials, staff and advisory body members are keepers of the public trust and must uphold the highest standards of ethical behaviour. Council officials, staff, and advisory body members are expected to:
• make decisions that benefit the community;
• act lawfully and within the authorities of the Vancouver Charter; and
• be free from undue influence and not act, or appear to act, in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, family, friends or business interests
1.2 Accountability: Council officials, staff, and advisory body members are obligated to answer for a responsibility that has been entrusted to them. They are responsible for the decisions that they make. This responsibility includes acts of commission and acts of omission. In turn, decision-making processes must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny; and proper records are kept and audit trails are in place.
DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE POLICY HERE: Policy-AE02801-CodeofConduct-2008-05-15

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2. CANADIAN INSTITUTE OF PLANNERS, CODE OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
http://www.cip-icu.ca/web/la/en/default.asp
TOP OF THE LIST:
# The Planner’s Responsibility to the Public Interest
Members have a primary responsibility to define and serve the interests of the public. This requires the use of theories and techniques of planning that inform and structure debate, facilitate communication, and foster understanding. Accordingly, a CIP member shall:
1. practice in a manner that respects the diversity, needs, values and aspirations of the public and encourages discussion on these matters;
2. provide full, clear and accurate information on planning matters to decision-makers and members of the public, while recognizing both the client’s right to confidentiality and the importance of timely recommendations;
3. acknowledge the inter-related nature of planning decisions and their consequences for individuals, the natural and built environment, and the broader public interest; and
4. identify and promote opportunities for meaningful participation in the planning process to all interested parties.

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3. URBAN DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE (UDI)

The Urban Development Institute is a national non-profit association (with international affiliations) of the development industry and its related professions. With over 500 corporate members, UDI Pacific represents thousands of individuals involved in all facets of land development and planning, including: developers, property managers, financial lenders, lawyers, engineers, planners, architects, appraisers, real estate professionals, local governments and government agencies.

UDI Code of Ethics
EXCERPT
As a responsible corporation, we recognize the need for wise, efficient and productive urban land use. To achieve this, it is essential that governments, communities and industry work together. As land use and development professionals, we will use our professional knowledge and expertise to further the enhancement of the land and the advancement of the quality of life of all who live on it. We ascribe to the following:
Respect for the Public: we will endeavor to enhance the public’s understanding of the development process to preserve their trust in the development profession and to protect their welfare.
Respect for the Community: We will strive to provide quality housing and facilities, acknowledging that development plays an important role in directing communities. We recognize that development needs to be responsible.
READ THE WHOLE CODE HERE: http://udi.bc.ca/code-of-ethics

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4. PLANNING INSTITUTE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Code of Professional Conduct
EXCERPT
15.1 The Planner’s Responsibility to the Public Interest
Members have a primary responsibility to define and serve the interests of the public. This requires the use of theories and techniques of planning that inform and structure debate, facilitate communication, and foster understanding. Accordingly, a Member shall:
15.1.1 practice in a manner that respects the needs, values and aspirations of the public and encourages discussion on these matters;
15.1.2 provide full, clear and accurate information on public planning matters to decision-­‐makers and the public;
15.1.3 acknowledge the inter-­‐related nature of planning decisions and their consequences for individuals, the natural and built environment, and the broader public interest; and
15.1.4 identify and promote opportunities for meaningful participation in the planning process to all interested parties.

DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE CODE: http://pibc.bc.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/PIBC-Code-Of-Prof-Conduct-Bylaws-2007.pdf

5. ARCHITECTURAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
http://www.aibc.ca/member_resources/conduct/index.html 

Excerpt: AIBC Professional Conduct – Complaints — As a self-governing professional organization, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) has been empowered by the provincial government to establish, monitor, and enforce standards of conduct and ethics for its member architects and associates. To meet this responsibility, the AIBC has established a process to receive and investigate complaints and, when necessary, to hold a formal Disciplinary Inquiry into a member’s alleged unprofessional conduct.

The website provides materials like these AIBC Professional Conduct Documents:

  • AIBC Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
  • Rules of Professional Conduct
  • The Complaint Process – AIBC Professional Conduct Process
  • AIBC Professional Conduct Complaint Form

6. MEDIA ETHICS

Reading material: Morals and the Media, 2nd edition: Ethics in Canadian Journalism, by Nicholas Russell, 2005. Confronted daily with decisions on how to present their stories, what to write and what not to write, journalists and the media are frequently accused of sensationalizing, of choosing to report the bad news, and of misquoting those they interview. In this substantially updated edition of Morals and the Media, Nick Russell addresses many of the concerns the public has about the media as he examines why the media behave the way they do. He also discusses how values have been developed and applied and suggests value systems that can be used to judge special situations.

Here are some examples of codes of conduct and ethics that could be tools for citizens to understand and call for the highest levels of excellence in the media:

  • Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ): Statement of Principles and Ethics Guidelines
  • Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA): Statement of Principles
  • CBC: Journalistic Standards and Practices
  • Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada: Code of Ethics
  • Canadian Association of Broadcasters: Code of Ethics
  • BC Press Council: Code of Practice

Some newsrooms have their own written ethical statements

  • Globe and Mail: See “Code of Conduct” in Style Book
  • Check for other local media

International, for reference

  • National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
  • Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
  • National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

7. MARKETING AND POLLSTER ETHICS

Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA)

Code of Conduct for MRIA members
http://www.mria-arim.ca/STANDARDS/CODE2007.asp

MRIA Charter of Respondent Rights
http://www.mria-arim.ca/STANDARDS/PDF/RespondentCharterEng.pdf

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC)
http://www.cbsc.ca/english/index.php
Codes (of ethics, etc.): http://www.cbsc.ca/english/codes/index.php
Make a complaint: 
http://www.cbsc.ca/english/complaint/index.php
FAQ: 
http://www.cbsc.ca/english/faqs/index.php

8. REALTORS AND RELATED MARKETING INDUSTRY

We note that the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) has a “Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice.”

http://bcrea.opacitydesigngroup.com/docs/working-with-a-realtor-/bcrealtor-codeofethics.pdf

The BCREA lists member boards all over the province. For example, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (www.rebgv.org) is a member.

The preamble to the code goes like this: “As REALTORS®, we accept a personal obligation to the public and to our profession. The Code of Ethics of The Canadian Real Estate Association embodies these obligations. As REALTORS®, we are committed to:
• Professional competent service
• Absolute honesty and integrity in business dealings
• Co-operation with and fairness to all
• Personal accountability through compliance with CREA’s Standards of Business Practice

It appears that BCREA has an investigation and disciplinary process.

2 thoughts on “Codes of Conduct

  1. Whoever wrote the Vancouver Code of Conduct needs to take a closer look at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and seek to understand the process of equitable and effective adjudication. Most of this language is prejudicial, patently unenforceable, or vague to the point of meaninglessness. Can you not see why we have such problems here?!

    The first section, 1.1 Integrity first bullet, reads “make decisions that benefit the community;”. This is either meaningless as stated, or some would say a variant of what George Orwell would call a Thought Crime. What defines the “community”? Whose “community”? Today’s “community” or that of our children? And, then what is a “benefit”? Long or short-term? Is a “benefit” financial, lifestyle, or environmental? What if this “benefit” is inequitably distributed? Is this still a “benefit,” or would any increase in inequality remove even utilitarian net gains?

    There is essentially no way to police this, as the terms are totally subjective. As all provisions of any Code of Conduct must be enforceable in real time, this section is thus rendered feckless.

    Furthermore and more importantly, what if a cabal of people or someone powerful in the media accuses a decision-maker of not being “pro-community,” failing to the see the “benefit” of what might be said to offer “more jobs,” “more plentiful access to water,” “a bigger tax base,” “a faster road network,” or any other apparently motherhood and apple pie “advantage”? This is exactly what Orwell so well described in 1984 as the path to tyranny. Luckily, here in Canada, the censure of anyone for such “unclean” thoughts or any alternate perspective on anything is protected under Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. OK, so maybe not anymore in Vancouver…

    I would suggest a better formulation would be “justify all decisions based on openly-stated and evidence-based reasoning.”

    What we want in our elected leaders is accountability, not some prescience about what is the best “benefit” to “community.”

    WE THE ELECTORATE each PERSONALLY know what “benefits” and “community” are, and we also know how municipal decisions affect us–assuming we have all relevant facts provided and without bias. So truly only each voter can judge what are the best decisions from their individual and collective assessments, and might then be able to take that judgment to the ballot box.

    There is an important distinction between an enforceable set of procedural rules that improve the functioning of government between elections and a political standard of assessment of a highly subjective nature. Let’s leave all subjectivity to democratic elections, and pretend that 1984 never happened.

    Second bullet: “authorities of the Vancouver Charter” — The Charter is a singular authority. Why cannot the City even gets its grammar correct? I also find it odd that complying with the law must be stated in a “Code of Conduct.” Is it not enough that this is the law as already applies equally to all, and is fully enforceable in the courts of BC? Do we need to restate that proper “conduct” must be lawful, or are our standards already so low that we even wonder if this is likely?

    Third Bullet: This language ignores hundreds of years of jurisprudence and logical reasoning applied to legislation and procedural rules across the Commonwealth, as also in many code-based legal jurisdictions. The correct language is: “free from the APPEARANCE of undue influence or conflict of interest.”

    Proving a direct conflict of interest is never easy, and often involves tedious court-ordered discovery, wire-taps, surveillance, and other expensive and potential invasions of privacy–few of which are ever necessary let alone effective (viz. Railgate). In comparison, if a “jury of your peers” or a “reasonable person” MIGHT think a conflict COULD exist–standards of adjudication operable in real time–then the APPEARANCE of a conflict does exist and recusal from decision-making on said issue would be either recommended or mandatory, depending on the rule crafted. If said decision-maker felt the need to defend his or her right to vote, then an open and recorded statement of evidence-based reasoning would be required, or allowed.

    “The appearance of a conflict” is a more enforceable standard, albeit it does require some discretion. An independent board of adjudicators, much like the Board of Variance once was and perhaps selected by a consensus of all councillors, would be immensely helpful. Also, if it were easy for any member of the public to lodge a complaint on a publicly-recorded and publicly-maintained website listing every apparent conflict (from that complainant’s perspective), and this same site indicated whether or not a decision-maker sought recusal or in fact voted on the issue and their reasons why, this might well also help to inform voters at the time of the next election.

    In essence, since Vancouver’s Code of Conduct is unenforceable and highly prejudicial, if not in fact even in compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is a worthless document. Seeing how it was invoked in Council on Tuesday morning may be certain proof of its moral and legal bankruptcy.

    It is time for more thoughtful minds to prevail in this lawless quagmire that Vancouver has become.

  2. I have a further comment about ‘codes of professional conduct’ and other formalized guides to ethical practice. They must be BOTH enforceable, AND actually enforced in practice.

    In recent years we have all been made away of the moral hazard of police/RCMP Internal Affairs investigations of public complaints, which has led in BC–after far too many horrific incidents and unacceptable inquiries–into the establishment of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. So also many of us are aware of internal investigations by The Law Society of BC and Architectural Institute of BC, which have been roundly criticized as self-serving “snow jobs.” No less important of course are the ethical codes of the medical, engineering, planning, and other regulated professions in BC. They are all “regulated” for a reason; they serve critical functions for the health and safety of many people. Being “certified” and inducted into a regulated profession is not the end of the process; accountability through enforceable and enforced codes of conduct over one’s entire career is an essential and necessary feature of these regulated professions.

    So, enforceability–a clear, open, unbiased, timely, and independent process whereby ethical or other material breaches are investigated–AND enforcement in fact–a record of decisions that have established clear accountability within the profession and a history of just, equitable, and material penalties assessed against and imposed on wrong-doers–are necessary elements in any system of professional regulation.

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