Most municipal election candidates (and even many elected officials) do not meet Wikipedia’s notability test, so they are not eligible to have their own page. This limits the amount of encyclopedic information there is about the people we vote for or who represent us.
Open Council is a collection of summarized information about municipalities, election candidates and elected officials that can be attributed to reliable, published sources in an effort to pick up where Wikipedia leaves off in democratizing knowledge.
The following is the process that Open Council follows when researching and writing a profile about a municipal candidate or elected official. It is a guide to where to look for relevant and reliable sources of information and can serve as a research checklist.
- Include facts that are of local political, historical, societal, scientific, intellectual or academic significance.
- Neutral point of view (WP:NPOV) – All profiles must be written from a neutral point of view, representing significant views fairly, proportionately and without bias.
- Verifiability (WP:V) – Material challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source. Verifiability means that people reading can check that information comes from a reliable source.
- Original thought is restricted to the commentary section (WP:NOR) – All Open Council material must be attributable to a reliable, published source. Original thought such as new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not clearly advanced by the sources can only placed in the Open Council commentary section.
See all of our Content Standards.
Suggested Google searches
Use this spreadsheet to search the sources mentioned in this document: Candidate Research – Google Searches
We recommend doing second-order searches. For example, you find an address or phone number of their business, search those in Google to see if additional business interests come up. This includes:
- Reverse address search
- Reverse phone number search
- Reverse email address
- Business name
- Business address
- Business phone number
- Business email address
If you find a name of a family member (parent, spouse, child, sibling, or extended family) who is over the age of majority, use their name in the Candidate Research – Google Searches spreadsheet to find their relationship, occupation, employer, and business interests.
Why is this information included? Details about relationships, careers and business interests are included for candidates, council members and their families because they could pertain to indirect pecuniary interests under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The Act applies to the interests of parents, spouse and children, but we expand that to extended families, if their interests are local.
Website and social media
Find the candidate’s campaign and personal social media profiles and see what sort of things they’re sharing and what their takes are on those topics. Include the candidate’s official platform/issues/statements from their:
- Social media
- Photo of leaflets
Social media coverage
Then search their name on each social media platform to see what others have been saying about them.
- Candidates debates – Debates are good ways to directly compare candidates. We can get an idea of how they think, their values and what sort of people they are.
- Local news coverage
- Local newspaper archives – often maintained by the public library
- Sources listed at the bottom of the Wikipedia page
Look up what provincial and federal candidates and parties, if any, they have supported in past elections:
Here’s how to search the database:
Provincial political donations
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- All donations 1993 to 2016
Corporate ownership and open data registries
Businesses and organizations they may be a part of or have an ownership stake in that they have not disclosed:
Council voting records
For incumbents who have been on council and looking to get re-elected, one of the best sources of information are their voting records which show how they voted on specific motions brought before council.
If council’s voting records not easily accessible in your municipality, you can add your community to Open Council and help record their votes to make them publicly available on this website.
Donors to previous campaign(s)
Find their donors in the previous election by searching the municipality’s website for: “Financial Statement – Auditor’s Report Candidate – Form 4“.
These statements, sworn to be accurate by each candidate who stood for election, disclose the names and addresses of all individuals who contributed $100 or more to the campaign, as well as the date of the contribution and amount given.
In Ontario, each individual can contribute up to a total of $1,200 to a municipal candidate, and no more than $5,000 to all candidates in a municipal election.
Follow the money. Who are their donors and what might they want the candidate, if elected, to accomplish for them?
Third party advertisers and their donors
Find out who bought political advertisements about a topic or individual by searching the municipality’s website for: “Financial Statement – Auditor’s Report Third Party – Form 8“.
These statements are public documents that disclose the name of the individual, trade union or corporation acting as a third party advertiser, the name of their official representative and a list of the names and addresses of individuals who contributed to them as well as the names and addresses of all individuals who contributed $100 or more to the third party advertiser, as well as the date of the contribution and amount given.
In Ontario, each entity can contribute up to a total of $1,200 to a third party advertiser, and no more than $5,000 to all third party advertisers registered in the same municipality in a municipal election. There is no limit on how much a registered third party advertiser can contribute to their own advertising campaign.
Follow the money. Who are they, who are their donors and how are they trying to sway public opinion?
Several municipalities currently maintain lobbyist registries which track communications and meetings between lobbyists and public office holders:
Pecuniary interests/conflicts registries
The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires Members of Council to declare any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in relation to a matter under consideration.
Direct pecuniary interest may exist when the result of a matter before Council or the board could impact, either positively or negatively, the member’s finances, economic prospects or asset value.
Indirect pecuniary interest can result due to a relationship with another entity. It may exist when the result of a matter before Council or the board will impact the finances, economic prospects or asset value of:
- a private corporation in which the member is a shareholder, director or senior officer;
- a public corporation in which the member has a controlling interest, or is a director or senior officer of;
- a body of which the member of Council or board is also a member;
- a member’s business partner; or e. a member’s employer
The Act requires municipalities to maintain a registry of all declarations made under this Act. The registry must include the original written declaration provided by the member of Council and must be available to the public.
The direct and indirect pecuniary interests of a member’s spouse, child (regardless of age) or parent are deemed to be the same interests of the member for the purpose of the MCIA.
The onus to declare a pecuniary interest rests with the member, and there is time dedicated for these declarations on every meeting agenda.
- Bruce County
- Leeds Grenville
- Greater Sudbury
- North Frontenac
Integrity commissioner investigations and reports
Municipalities in Ontario have integrity commissioners who are responsible for addressing the application of the Code of Conduct for elected officials and/or members of local boards.
The full mandate of the Integrity Commissioner has four components and is as follows:
- Advisory – Advice to individual members of Council about their own situation,
- Complaint Investigation – Assess and investigate complaints made to the Commissioner from a member of Council, the whole Council, or a member of the public all pursuant to section 223.4 of the Municipal Act,
- Complaint Adjudication – determine whether a member of Council has in fact violated a City protocol, a by-law or policy and recommend a penalty, and
- Education – publish an annual report on findings of typical advice and complaint cases.
These reports and decisions (real example) are published publicly.
Watch council meetings and review meeting minutes on the municipality’s meeting video database or CivicWeb portal eg. https://citybellevilleon.civicweb.net/portal/
Ask the community about them
- In your local subreddit
- In your local Facebook groups
- Municipality’s CivicWeb portal eg. https://citybellevilleon.civicweb.net/portal/
- Consumer Beware List: https://www.consumerbewarelist.mgs.gov.on.ca/en/CBL/search
If the content of a page has been removed/deleted/disabled, you can try using one of these web archives to find what content was previously there:
Over to you
If you have done any of this research already, we would greatly appreciate it if you shared it with us so we can add it to this site for other members of your community to see so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can send us files, images and text here. Thank you!