On December 19th, 2019, Michael Olsen made sexist comments at a Transit Commission meeting, which you can review for yourself at michaelolsen.ca. This got me thinking about what we, the public, can possibly do about a sexist Commissioner. Can anything be done? Are we stuck with tolerating a sexist Commissioner who refused to apologize for his intolerable, inexcusable behaviour?
No, we are not stuck with him. He can be gotten rid of. Council can get rid of him.
Question: Who are Transit Commissioners Accountable to?
After Michael Olsen made his sexist comments I asked the committee secretary what rules/procedures exist surrounding the issue of removing a member from the Commission.
After hearing recently made comments from a member of the Transit Commission, I would like to inquire about what procedures/rules exist for the Commission in terms of having a member permanently removed, and a replacement added.
Could you please forward to me the appropriate by-laws, or other documents? Preferably in full, and not just excerpts relating to the topic at hand.
I require this information so I can follow-up with the appropriate member of the Commission, or City Council, as the case may be.
I received a reply from the Rick O'Connor, the City Clerk. This is, therefore, an authoritative answer:
With respect to the appointment of Transit Commissioners and the ability to be removed from their positions, that power lies not with the Transit Commission, but with City Council as a whole. In other words, the legislative body that made the appointments would be the same body to revoke them. Further to your request, I have attached for your reference the following relevant documents:
- 2018-2022 Council Governance Review Report, approved by Council on December 5, 2019, and which sets out the mandate and composition for the Transit Commission for this Term of Council (view); and
- Report to appoint the Citizen Members of the Transit Commission for this Term of Council, approved by City Council on January 30, 2019 (view).
So, what can we do about an openly sexist Transit Commissioner? We can apply pressure to the people they are accountable to.
Answer: Transit Commissioners are accountable to City Council as a whole.
We're one motion of Council away from being able to remove a sitting Transit Commissioner. Michael Olsen was not elected to the position he holds; he was appointed by Council because somehow, in their finite and fallible wisdom, they felt his views and opinions were of value.
But that opinion is not written in stone.
When voters vote, we do so in a moment of time and choose a person to represent us for a fixed amount of time. Maybe that person ends up being revealed to be a sexist man (and was all along). Maybe that man ends up using their position to harass women he hires, or tries to hire. Maybe that person is named Rick Chiarreli. In such cases the options Council has before it are limited to non-existent. Councillors, no matter how disgusting their conduct might be, can't be removed from office. Voters put them there. They are accountable to no one until they choose to stand for election again.
But Michael Olsen is not accountable to voters. He is accountable to the people who put him in the position of power he wields: City Councillors. Here are the names of the people Michael Oslen is accountable to:
We had a question. Now we have an answer. We know who Michael Olsen is accountable to.
And now we have a second question:
Will these 24 people tolerate Michael Olsen's sexist conduct at Transit Commission?
Will they tolerate him gaslighting a fellow member of the Transit Commission?
Will the men who sit on Council sit back and wait for one of the women on Council to act first, then say they have their back? Or will a man who sits on Council take the lead and be the first to say, by way of a Notice of Motion, they intend to see Michael Olsen removed from Transit Commission?
I'm looking at you, Men of Council, to act. Your names are in bold above. You must lead here. Your silence will be heard.
One of your **names** hasn't been bolded. You can stay silent.
If none of the men step forward, their implicit statement is this:
I find Michael Olsen's behaviour tolerable.