Transparency & accountability checklist for Ontario municipalities

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| Published , updated April 17, 2024

Municipal mandatory minimums: Ontario’s municipality compliance checklist and feature best practices

The following municipal transparency and accountability features are helpful and beneficial for everyone, no matter what local issues you’re interested in, whether it’s climate change, housing crisis, property tax changes or garbage collection, or what side of the issue you’re on.

These services increase public confidence in government decisions and help constituents, all levels of government and the media:

  • Access information
  • Engage democratically
  • Follow government decision-making
  • Enhance evidence-based decision making

Municipalities must prioritize transparency and accountability

It is the role of council to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality;

Section 224 d.1 of the Municipal Act

What are municipalities required to have?

Municipalities may choose to have:

The following features, while not explicitly required by provincial legislation, are recommended as they provide improve engagement, transparency and accountability:

Why is transparency and accountability important?

Efficiencies

A service delivery review for Chatham-Kent by KPMG found that navigating the Municipality’s website to find information is a challenge for some citizens. This results in citizens contacting their member of Council or customer service for support.

Accountability

A judicial inquiry of on transactions in Collingwood found that between 2010 and 2014, Paul Bonwick, the brother of then-mayor Sandra Cooper earned more than $1 million for his involvement in deals made by Collingwood city council – almost half of what the town of about 22,000 paid in salaries in 2012 for its full-time staff.

The two deals were:

  • Sale of a 50% share of the town’s electrical utility to PowerStream (now Alectra), despite the town receiving a much higher bid from another potential buyer.
  • Award a contract to expand recreational facilities to one builder without considering other bids.

In 2017, the Town of Collingwood requested that staff investigate existing practices and explore new opportunities to enhance accountability and transparency initiatives and programs, and ensuring good governance.

In response to Bill 68 (2017) to “modernize” the Municipal Act, the Town of Collingwood undertook an Accountability and Transparency review which resulted in a 2-part staff report: Part 1 and Part 2, which recommended:

  • Live-streaming all Council and Standing Committee meetings
  • Public database of recorded votes
  • Enhanced community outreach
  • Lobbyist registry
  • In-house legal counsel
  • Municipal Ombudsman
  • Municipal Auditor General

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