Last month, Peel Regional Council received, The Vexatious, Frivolous and Unreasonable Customer, Behaviour, Requests and Complaints Corporate Policy, a new policy that is designed to deal with persons and groups who disagree with regional policies and who continue to argue the merits of their case against regional positions. It seems a reasonable policy until you read the fine print and then it’s nothing more than a threat to impede, hinder and obstruct any group or individual that argues with staff findings.
The Guardian story (April 26) pointed out that this policy came forward “in the wake of sometimes heated and passionate debate over water fluoridation in Peel. The anti-fluoride lobby made some persistent demands for proof the water treatment practice is not harmful as well as presentations that contradicted information from regional staff who assured councillors and the public that water is safe.”
Fluoride Free Peel says that the vexatious policy is nothing more than regional staff trying to muzzle their group. They say that this policy has “disturbing details including an alleged need to protect the staff from the public”.
After over forty years of dealing with the public, Peel has introduced a policy designed to make sure that if you bother regional staff too much you might find them a little hard to deal with or not at all. This senseless policy is clearly based on a similar one adopted by Mississauga Council in 2014 and it aims to, as the report ambiguously says, “ (to) deal with individuals in ways which are consistent, fair and reasonable while acknowledging that there may be a need to protect Regional staff from frivolous, vexatious or unreasonable behaviors.”
The regional clerk will determine if your cause is frivolous or unreasonable. There are 18 categories where a person could find themselves cut off by regional staff and “If your complaint has no serious purpose or value (or is) about a matter so trivial or one so meritless on its face that investigation could be disproportionate in terms of time and cost or your conduct is unacceptable in all circumstances … if it unacceptably compromises the health, safety, and security of staff … or if the complaint is incomprehensible, inflammatory or based on conspiracy theories,” you’re out of luck.
One can’t know the nature of complaints that come to the region everyday but one has to wonder if this ludicrous policy that looks in every direction to thwart public input, can be best for regional staff. That staff will spend more time and effort deciding whether a claim is vexatious, frivolous, or unreasonable or no time at all.
Democratic government is not an easy way to govern. There are hard decisions to be made by regional council but it’s the job of that council to ensure that persons disabusing regional staff be dealt with using the tools they have now. Regional staff are public servants and the vexatious policy goes a long way to isolate them from the public they serve.