The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
April 15, 2013
Dear Premier Wynne,
Congratulations on becoming the Premier of Ontario.
The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario Inc. requests that your government take immediate action to amend the Municipal Elections Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to address our concerns about the abuses of, deficiencies in and lack of enforcement of the current Acts.
We would also highlight our strong concern that the Municipal Elections Act be amended to prohibit contributions by corporations and trade unions to municipal candidates. We have included a copy of our 2007 submission to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing which sets out our recommendations for improving the Municipal Elections Act. The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario would appreciate that the amendment of the Act be a priority item so that the new requirements can be in place for the next round of municipal elections.
The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires enforcement to be initiated by an elector who brings an application before a judge within six years of the time of alleged contravention. If electors feel the need to do this, they should realize that it might cost them tens of thousands of dollars. Thus the Act is seldom enforced and when it is, the judge often excuses the member on the basis that the contravention was committed through inadvertence or by reason of an error in judgment, an escape clause conveniently included in the Act. The Act must be amended to establish a body to deal quickly with conflict of interest complaints without cost to the elector or the member. Such a body could also be used by councillors or members of a board to determine if they have a conflict of interest before they take part in the decision-making process. This could easily clear the air and keep everyone honest and would make the inadvertence or error of judgment defence unnecessary.
Both the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and the Municipal Elections Act suffer from the same flaw when it comes to the enforcement of the Act – an elector must make an application to a judge and spend large sums of money in the process. The result is that these Acts are seldom enforced and this encourages contraventions even when the contraventions are clear. For example, a school trustee participating in teacher salary negotiations when his daughter or son is an employee of his school board is clearly in contravention of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. And a councillor who accepts excess funding from a developer above the legislated limits is clearly in contravention of the Municipal Elections Act.
Why do contraventions of these Acts keep occurring? It is a problem of enforcement. It is as if, when your house is robbed, you must hire a lawyer to make an application to a judge to have the robbery investigated. This, of course, would be ridiculous. But this is exactly the status of a taxpayer with respect to enforcing these two acts. Obviously these Acts need to be amended. The problems with these Acts in some municipalities must surely be an embarrassment to all Ontarians and should be to the Ontario Government.
It is time for the Ontario Government to amend both the Municipal Elections Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. We would request that your government introduce legislation to do so in the current sitting of the Ontario Legislature.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario
Cc: Honourable Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing