Some of Hamilton’s councillors plan to prevent members of the public from going public with their complaints to the integrity commissioner. Under the proposed rule if a member of the public talks to the media about their complaint, the commissioner would stop the investigation. There is no doubt that some members of the public will abuse the process to make frivolous or unfounded claims . But gagging those complainants is overkill. At the end of the day if a complaint turns out to be  malicious and untrue a councillor has access to libel and slander remedies. Judging from some of the comments we see in newspaper blogs, some members of the public appear to believe they can say anything they want about an elected official. While citing ‘fair comment’ the courts do allow greater latitude in criticizing public officials it is not  a blanket license to slander. Only the anonymity of these online trolls protects them from reprisals and it appears that courts are leaning towards forcing internet providers to identify certain offenders. There is a role for the media as well. We can exercise better judgement in reporting on some of this stuff, instead of treating everything as if it is a full blown crisis. For the integrity commissioner, if council saddles him with this restriction he should exercise some integrity and resign.




John Best has had a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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