Monday, February 12, 2007

Amendments to the Ontario Municipal Act

Recent amendments to the Ontario Municipal Act gives Municipalities the authority to create new positions in order to enhance local accountability. I don't remember reading anything about this recently in the Windsor Star, but I found this article from the London Free Press. (just replace Windsor wherever you see London in the article)
City could hire watchdogs
Thu, February 8, 2007
A new provincial law allows municipalities to appoint officials to make them accountable.

London council has been given new powers to combat secrecy, waste and unseemly conduct at city hall, but the question remains -- will it use its new authority?


He likes that the new law requires council to make a record of its proceedings behind doors.

"That's the key," he said.

The Ontario government has given municipalities some time (how much is unclear) to decide whether to hire an investigator or let complaints of closed-door meetings go to the provincial ombudsman.

But the legislation does provide a green light to hire:

- An integrity commissioner to enforce ethical matters, including a code of conduct for council.

- An ombudsman to probe complaints against city staff.

- An auditor general to investigate the use of city funds.

- A lobbyist registrar to help the public track who is lobbying whom.

In yesterdays post, I referred to Item 2 on this weeks Council Agenda. The title is
" Council Orientation with Richard Tindal ". In the "Discussion" we see that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is providing a training session to council on the amendments to the Municipal Act. In addition, the Mayor is preparing a report on the Code of Conduct, Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner aspects. That's why I put up the poll in the right hand sidebar.

I think it's worthwhile if we have a discussion on these various new positions and what they can do for the citizens of Windsor. One, for example, will have the power to investigate in-camera meetings of Council and whether or not the topics they are discussing are appropriate for closed door meetings. From a citizens perspective, the decision not to have an Ombudsman could mean significant delays in receiving a decision, as all complaints would then be forwarded to the Ontario Ombudsman. Will it be possible to merge some of the positions - a combined Integrity Commissioner/Ombudsman? What are the various pros and cons of each position?

If we leave this discussion to Council and the Editorial pages of the Windsor Star, then we will get what we deserve.

PS. email your friends, family and co-workers the address of the blog so that they can vote in the poll.