This past February volunteers of the Sault Association of Ratepayers were made aware and began the study of information that under Part V.1 sections 221.1 to 223.4, Transparency and Accountability of the Ontario Municipal Act the City of Sault Ste Marie is defiant in comparison to other municipalities.
Through this action SSMAR volunteers participated with the public input process at the provincial level to the proposed upcoming changes to the Act, including the gathering of information and seeking guidance from MPP’s David Orazietti, Micheal Mantha and Monty McNaughton as well as the office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
The Municipal Act is a fluid document subject to change and constantly evolving.
Our information is that changes will be coming forward at this fall’s session of the Ontario Provincial Legislature. Recommendations from across the province have been gathered in order to increase transparency and trust for municipal governments
To help ensure integrity and accountability in public office, Part V.1 of the 2001 act sections 223.1 to 223.24, provides that municipalities may pass bylaws to establish:
- A code of conduct for council and local board members
- An Integrity Commissioner
- A Municipal Ombudsman
- An Auditor General
- A lobby registry and registrar
As it currently stands Sault Ste Marie has only one of those listed under the 2001 Municipal Act, a code of conduct, created in 2010 which lays out rules and policies governing the ethical behavior of members of council and local boards.
The current code, including the cover, is four pages while other smaller municipalities such as Timmins are significantly more in total and detail.
Through the process of information gathering it was found that although the wording of “may” is used, a majority of Ontario municipalities have in place all of the Part V.1 components. Leaving the municipality of Sault Ste Marie in the extreme minority of those that don’t have these by-laws in place.
After studying these and other documents the conclusion reached and the consensus taken was that action was required.
Firstly the code of conduct is in need of review and amendment and secondly that an action of public and open discussion and consultation should be taken and needs to take place to bring into effect the required bylaws that bring Sault Ste Marie up to parity under Part V.1 with other municipalities under the 2001 Municipal Act.
This action is not a criticism or negative reflection towards our council but an effort to improve municipal affairs in order to serve the community interest better.
As of last week we have submitted a formal request to appear before council and make our presentation and move forward to a process of discussion to bring our municipality up to par with a majority of others in Ontario in regards to Part V.1 of the 2001 Act.
We will be seeking support of council to;
- Conducting open public consultations to review and amendment to the current code of conduct.
- Hold public open consultations with our representatives to discuss and implementing by-laws for the other components of Part V.1 of the 2001 Municipal that are not currently in place, to bring Sault Ste Marie up to par with other municipalities under the 2001 Act.
- Study the proposed changes coming to the Municipal Act and adopt best practices in process and procedures.
The goal from this action is to bettering the municipal process and achieve parity with other Ontario Municipalities with all the tools allowed that help ensure integrity and accountability in public office as found in Part V.1 of the 2001 act sections 223.1 to 223.24.
Further information is available by email [email protected] or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.