A Qualicum Beach town councillor is taking a two-month medical leave, stepping away temporarily from what he calls a “very, very toxic environment.”
In a public release issued Thursday, Robert Filmer claimed bullying and harassment is “very common in council” and he is disappointed the issues are not being addressed.
“Everyone deserves the chance to work in a safe, respectful and supportive environment,” Filmer said. “It pains me to say that the Town of Qualicum Beach council currently exists in direct opposition to those values. At a moment in time when we should be finding ways to treat each other with kindness, care, and support – I am devastated to find myself in an ongoing situation where an extreme lack of vision and any meaningful leadership, has left me in an untenable position, where I fear for my health and well-being.”
Following the advice of his physician, Filmer, 22, said he will take the two-month medical leave, effective Dec. 10.
“It’s not so much about the political environment,” said Filmer. “I love debating. I love disagreements. Unfortunately, this council, and it happened since day one, council has had some issues. Some members of council have gone on personal attacks. And things no longer become political but personal. Our Town Hall is currently a very, very toxic environment.”
Filmer criticized Mayor Brian Wiese for failing to establish a harmonius and safe environment.
“When council brings issues to the mayor, he uses the line ‘I am not your keeper,’” said Filmer. “In a sense that is true. The mayor is not the keeper or the boss of councillors. However, the mayor is the leader. If there is an issue, especially if that issue is bullying or harassment it is the mayor’s job to resolve that.”
Filmer said that behaviours change when council goes in-camera.
“As soon as the door is closed and we go into an in-camera meeting, the tables changed drastically,” said Filmer, who added that all residents “expect their elected representatives to behave with dignity decorum, and due diligence to the diversity of opinions and voices that exist within our community.”
Wiese, in a press release, said he respects Filmer’s participation as a member of council and his difficult decision to take care of his health first.
“It is unfortunate that Coun. Filmer has characterized the conduct of council in a negative way in his publicly issued statement released earlier today,” said Wiese. “I disagree with the allegations he has made and I’m disappointed that he has chosen to raise them in the manner he did. I want to assure the public that councillors (Scott) Harrison, (Teunis) Westbroek, and myself will continue to work towards the objectives set out in council’s strategic plan, and continue to progress towards the longterm goals in the Official Community Plan for the remainder of the council term. We look forward to welcoming Coun. Filmer back.”
Filmer said he will use the time away from council to reflect and get re-energized.
Council’s next scheduled meeting is Jan. 13, 2021. A byelection must also be held in short order to replace Coun. Adam Walker, who resigned his position after being elected as the NDP MLA for Parksville-Qualicum.