Public inquiry recommends conflict-of-interest overhaul for municipal councillors
The results of a two-year inquiry requested by Collingwoods’ Town Council after an Ontario Provincial Police investigation into the partial sell-off of Collingwood’s electrical utility and alleged improprieties in how the proceeds were used to construct recreational facilities are in!
Frank Marrocco, Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Ontario, just released his report – Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, Transparency and the Public Trust.
The Executive Summary states “undisclosed conflicts of interest marred many of the decisions made in respect to these two transactions, as did a series of unfair and precarious procurement practices. Combined, these factors left the transactions vulnerable to improper influence and cast doubt on both their legitimacy and the Town’s reputation.”
There have been other examples in the Province of undeclared conflicts of interest (Mississauga and City of Toronto) and there will be more in the future unless amendments are made to the Act.
While many of Judge Marrocco’s 306 recommendations were directed at Collingwood, he hopes that they will be useful across the province “for any other municipalities facing similar issues.” One of the recommendations is to broaden the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to expand the definition of the personal or family interest that can put a politician in a conflict of interest. The current Act does not provide a complete conflict of interest code but rather lists a narrowly defined group of family members related to a Council member.
All Ontario municipalities require a better ethical infrastructure.
The Federation or Urban Neighbourhoods sent a Submission to the Government of Ontario on Nov 18, 2020 supporting the recommended amendments to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, urging the Ontario Government to act on these recommendations to protect the citizens of Ontario.
SUBMISSION TO THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO REQUESTING AMENDMENTS TO THE MUNICIPAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT
FEDERATION OF URBAN NEIGHBOURHOODS (ONTARIO)
A number of amendments to the Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act have been recommended by the Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, Transparency and the Public Trust. and the Commissioner of the inquiry, Associate Chief Justice Frank N. Marrocco. The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods (Ontario) strongly supports these recommended amendments to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
The Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, Transparency and the Public Trust
is located on the following website: http://www.collingwoodinquiry.ca/report/index.html
The following recommendations are especially important:
- The Province of Ontario should amend the Municipal Act to define the roles and responsibilities of individual Council members. It should be made clear that only Council as a whole, not a single Council member, has the authority to direct staff to carry out a particular function, or act on any other matter, unless specifically authorized by Council.
- The Province of Ontario should amend the Municipal Act to include a provision mandating the annual proactive financial disclosure of private interests of elected municipal officials. The requirement should state that Council members should disclose include profession, employment, or businesses; debts; property holdings, and directorships; as well as a list of family members who have related financial interest in these matters. Disclosure of these financial interests should be consistent with the disclosure currently required of provincial and federal elected officials in Canada.
- The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act should be amended to broaden the scope to any real, apparent, and potential conflict of interest, to include an expanded group of family members whose conflicts of interest are deemed to be the Council members,
- The Act should be amended to define disqualifying and non-disqualifying interests.
- There should be a mandated comprehensive Code of Conduct and an appointed integrity commissioner to give advice on disqualifying or non-disqualifying interests.
The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods (Ontario) on behalf of urban communities across the province urges the Ontario Government to act on these recommendations to protect the citizens of Ontario.
Response to FUN letter:
FUN received a response back to our Submission on Nov. 18, 2020 from Minister Steve Clark of the Ministry if Municipal Affairs and Housing on January 7, 2021 stating:
“I value hearing about your organization’s support for the recommendations made by Justice Marrocco through the Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry. I also appreciate you highlighting recommendations that you believe are especially important from the reports. While no decisions have been made, your recommendations will be considered in the future.”