Highlands East councillors disagreed over new restrictions of the political activity of councillors on social media, which passed in a contested 3-2 vote.

Staff brought forward adjustments to a new code of conduct policy at a March 26 meeting. The policy, originally passed Feb. 12, was changed based on consultation with the new integrity commissioner hired by all Haliburton municipalities. Deputy mayor Cec Ryall and Coun. Suzanne Partridge voted against it.

The policy originally stated council and committee members are to refrain from negative statements against the municipality, staff, a member of the public or council on social media. However, the change extends the restriction to include political parties and other levels of government, including their officials.

Ryall questioned the measure and said councillors should be able to comment on decisions that impact municipalities.

“We have the right to criticize the government above,” Ryall said. “If you do it effectively, intelligently and respectfully.”

Chief administrative officer Shannon Hunter said it is meant to be a commonsense approach.

“No one is saying you don’t get to weigh in. Just do it in a positive way,” Hunter said. “You still have a right to say ‘I am disappointed.’”

Partridge questioned if that was really the case based on policy wording.

“I’m disappointed in the actions of the government’ is a negative statement, so we can’t say that,” Partridge said. “I really object to not being able to be politically active.”

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