City staff won’t be required to live within city limits as a condition of employment after a motion to adopt such a hiring policy was quashed at Port Alberni city council on Monday. The motion suggested all non-union city staff hired after March 1, 2015 be required to live within city limits.
Director of Corporate Services Theresa Kingston told council that enforcing residency requirements could be seen as discriminatory under both provincial and federal law.
“In any of the protected categories [in the B.C. Human Rights Code] it can be seen as discrimination against employment. As well, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in terms of interfering with a person’s choice as to where they live.”
Kingston warned council that requiring residence within city limits could put the city into a “position of being taken to human rights tribunal… if a person was to pursue that under the discriminatory part of that particular requirement.”
However, Coun. Jack McLeman, who originally brought the motion to council, said that he did not believe that the requirement was restrictive.
“My concern, and the concern of a lot of people that I talk to, is that if someone is making decisions and those decisions affect the mill rate of the taxpayer, that individual should be paying the same taxes and affected by the same mill rate. I believe people who make decisions and influence decisions should be living with those same decisions.”
Kingston replied that “it is actually council’s decision as to what the mill rate is,” not city staff’s.
Coun. Dan Washington brought up his concern that a residency requirement could lead to a less qualified candidate being hired. “If we have two candidates, one living in the city and one living outside the city and the outside guy was better qualified and willing to work for the same amount of money as the guy in the city, do we deny our taxpayers the expertise and cave to the city’s living in the city policy?”
Kingston said that the city’s preference has gone towards local hiring, “however, in some cases we don’t have people with the skills and qualifications to fill those positions.”
She said it would be easier for an out-of-towner taking a job to fulfill any such requirement than someone who lives in the regional district and gets hired by the city.
“You want to hire the best people you can in the position.”
The motion was defeated at council with a 4-3 vote.
Editor’s note: A previous story on this issue printed in our Nov. 13, 2014 edition incorrectly stated that Coun. Jack McLeman raised a notice of motion that he would rescind his earlier notice. In fact, McLeman lifted the motion from the table, which allowed the subject to be brought back to council for consideration.