Sleeveless shirts and cut-off shorts acceptable council attire?

Sarnia Councillor Nathan Colquhoun speaks to a proposed dress code at the Sarnia council meeting June 27, 2022. Image captured from online coverage.

When it comes to setting a dress code for Sarnia councillors, the majority felt it wouldn’t be appropriate.

Councillor Bill Dennis asked his colleagues on Monday to adopt a professional business attire policy for meetings starting next term, but his motion failed.

The discussion before the decision included a dramatic debate.

“I believe in almost 30 years in real estate, you dress for success, you dress in a manner that reflects your respect for your clients or the public and the office that you were elected to be in,” said Dennis.

Councillor Nathan Colquhoun, who attended Monday’s meeting in a sleeveless shirt and fedora, asked how clothing determines if an individual is respectful to a position.

“Would you wear that to a job interview?” Dennis replied.

“Yeah, I would, thank you for asking,” Colquhoun said.

Dennis added that he doesn’t think people wear cut off shorts, flip flops and muscle shirts to other council meetings. But, he was called out immediately by Councillor Mike Stark.

“You have! Flip flops and shorts,” Stark shouted.

Dennis admitted wearing the attire to a St. Clair Region Conservation Authority meeting.

Mayor Mike Bradley stepped in at that point.

“This is how councils bring themselves down in the public’s estimation,” said Bradley. “Can I have order, please. I feel like a father… I’m not going to tell you guys again.”

Councillor Dave Boushy recalled a time when county council members all wore red jackets, and that it didn’t last.

“We all bought them, and one by one, we didn’t bother with them,” Boushy said. “So, I think it should be up to the person.”

Councillor Brian White said defining what people should wear isn’t adequate for today’s society.

“We’re trying to open up and understand people a little bit more who fall beyond the binary,” said White. “I would like to see that this position be more accessible to more folks who may not adhere to this cultural standard.”

White said defining what is professional is difficult because the definition is changing.

“With cultural sensitivities aside, in today’s economy, we have CEO’s of multi-million dollar, if not billion dollar companies, that are functioning entirely online sitting on a beach somewhere with a laptop.”

White said he doesn’t think it disrespects history, but ultimately he said it will be up to the electorate to decide.

“So, if they’ve put us in and they disagree with the way that we present ourselves on council, then four years later they’re going to let us know that that was unacceptable for them,” he said.

Sarnia’s 2022 municipal election will be held on Monday, October 24.

The next term of office will run from November 15, 2022 to November 14, 2026.

So far, four incumbent councillors are running for re-election in Sarnia, and they’re all seeking second terms.

Candidates have until Friday, August 19, 2022 at 2 p.m. to file their nomination forms.