How the city now wants to provide notice to the public

News 100 blueBy Staff

June 7th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

This is a very significant change in policy and deserves attention by those who follow what gets done at city hall.

The Municipal Act, which sets out how municipalities operate, states that “a municipality shall adopt and maintain a policy with respect to the circumstances in which the municipality shall provide notice to the public and, if notice is to be provided, the form, manner and times notice shall be given.”

The City’s Public Notice policy was originally enacted on April 7, 2008 as Schedule E to the Procedure By-law 37-2008. It remained part of the Procedure By-law until 2016 when it was inadvertently repealed by Procedure By-law 64-2016. No notice policy was established in its place and this policy is required by legislation.

Strategy/Process
The Public Notice Policy, set out at the end of the staff report, demonstrates that the City of Burlington wants its residents to be aware of when City business occurs. The Policy provides a clear outline on when and how residents will be notified when Municipal Act items are completed.

Establishing a Public Notice Policy, allows the community to know how and when notices will be provided and aligns with the principles of open government. The Policy also provides guidance to public notice authors, which ensures that all notices are uniform, communicates the pertinent points, and are written in plain language.

Corporate Communications – Newspaper and City Website
The Municipal Act has changed over the years giving municipalities more flexibility in terms of when public notice should be given, as well as the form and manner in which notice is provided. Use of the newspaper is no longer prescribed except in limited circumstances. Therefore, it is recommended that the City move to publishing notices to the City’s website, a shift to this new process will reduce advertising costs substantially.

To achieve balance, the Policy indicates that the City may use more comprehensive methods when providing notice, and for a longer period. It also encourages public notice authors to consult with Corporate Communications & Engagement staff to ensure that all appropriate tactics are used (e.g. amplifying through corporate social media accounts, use of corporate digital screens, use of local media) and that the use of other formats, such as video or direct mail are considered when providing notice to the public.

Many municipal comparators have moved towards publication of notices on their website, either exclusively or a hybrid approach with an optional or mandatory newspaper publication.

The new Public Notice Policy will provide greater flexibility to the municipality by allowing notice to be given on the City’s website in accordance with the City’s Corporate Communications Policy and Web Communications Policy.

Website Enhancements
Corporate Communications will be enhancing the City’s site and public access by establishing a Public Notices webpage under the News and Notices menu at https://www.burlington.ca/en/your-city/News-and-Notices.asp, which will feature notices under the Municipal Act, in one centralized location to improve customer service.

Planning and Heritage Act notices will also be posted to this site.

In addition, links to the Region of Halton Notice page, and the Ontario and Canada Gazette will be present to provide residents with a one-stop shop for most government notices.

Options Considered
In order to meet the intent of the Municipal Act and identify subjects or matters where notice is deemed prudent, the Public Notice Policy sets out the minimum and/or recommended notice standards. The Policy provides a listing of items where specific notice requirements for specific sections of the Act and other legislation are required.

When reviewing the City’s former Public Notice provisions, the notice provisions in the Municipal Act and current public notice practices of surrounding municipalities, staff took into consideration the most effective means of providing notice to the public.

In addition, staff undertook to provide for notice timeframes that gave the public sufficient time to make submissions. Nothing in the policy prevents the City from using more comprehensive methods of notice or for providing for a longer notice period. In addition to specifying or providing recommendations for notice, the Public Notice Policy will provide clear direction to determine what department is responsible for providing each notice. This will serve as a tool to help City staff understand the notice requirements and their responsibilities for providing notice.

The Public Notice Policy has been reviewed by the stakeholders involved in providing notice including staff in Finance, Capital Works, Licensing, Clerks and Planning departments. Staff was requested to provide comments and feedback on the policy requirements outlined in the Public Notice Policy. All recommended changes have been considered during the review process of this policy.

Financial Matters:
Depending on the type and frequency of notice, cost is incurred to provide notice. If the requirement under the Municipal Act is for direct mail or newspaper notices, the associated costs for these mediums are unavoidable. As newspaper advertising and direct mailing can be expensive, consideration was given to providing alternative forms of notice where appropriate.

Engagement Matters:
When notice is required, the public will receive such notice in the form, manner and time outlined in the Public Notice Policy. By providing notice, the public is kept informed of Council’s priorities, municipal policy issues and budget matters thus enhancing accountability and transparency.

The new Policy was drafted with communication and engagement methods in mind, respecting market analysis and trends including use of social media. The City website (https://www.burlington.ca) remains as the City’s primary and predominant internet presence however the use of social media is also a key aspect of how the City communicates with its residents to engage, inform and receive feedback. In addition, the use of social media affords the opportunity to deliver time-sensitive information quickly.

Should Council approve the Public Notice Policy, it will be made available on the City’s website under Corporate Policies.

Conclusion:
The City of Burlington is committed to ensuring notice is provided to the public when required by legislation or as otherwise deemed necessary. The Public Notice Policy will provide a standard with respect to the circumstances in which the City shall provide notice to the public and, if notice is to be provided, the form, manner and timeframe notice shall be given.
Supporting the Public Notice Policy is in keeping with Burlington Council’s 2018-2022 V2F of enhancing and emphasizing a customer first approach in all City service areas.

 

The policy city staff is proposing:

1. Where the City is required to give notice under the Act, the notice shall be given in a form, manner and time as set out in Schedule A unless;

 The notice required in the Act or other legislation is greater in scope or time;

 Notice for the subject is not provided for in Schedule A and Council, by resolution, or staff determines that notice is desirable, in which case the Director responsible for the subject requiring notice shall provide notice.

2. Time periods set out in this Policy shall be counted by excluding the day of the period on which notice is first given and including the day of the period on which the meeting or other event takes place.

3. Every notice given shall contain the following information, when applicable:

 Identification of the authority under which the notice is given;

 A description of the purpose of the notice (i.e. date, time and location if applicable) and effect of the proposed action;

 A description of how and where comments can be made, including any submission deadlines;

 Contact information for the purpose of submitting written comments or obtaining additional information; and,

 Where the notice is related to identifiable lands, a key map showing the location of the lands; and

 That the Public Notice is given by The Corporation of the City of Burlington, or by the City Clerk on its behalf.

4. Where Direct Mail is required and the matter is related to identifiable lands, notice by Direct Mail shall be to the abutting property owner, unless legislation requires circulation to property owners within a designated radius of the identifiable lands.

5. A Public Notice, utilizing the City’s website, shall be sufficient even if the City website is not accessible at all times during the public notice posting period.

6. Nothing in the policy shall prevent the City from using more comprehensive methods of notice or for providing for a longer notice period.

7. No additional notice will be required for subsequent meetings where a matter has been deferred to a subsequent meeting by Council or by a Committee of Council.

8. Where possible, Public Notices should be written in plain language and provided in an accessible manner. Public Notices shall incorporate the following strategies to enhance participatory opportunities for the public:
• Ability to scan for information: Make use of short sentences and paragraphs, and headers.
• Ease of reading: Use simple sentence structure and grammar.
• Use simple everyday words instead of technical jargon: Use active voice rather than passive voice.
• Target audiences: Anticipate their interests and address potential enquiries.
• Images: Use images especially if it helps readers understand the message.

9. If a matter arises, which in the opinion of the City Manager, in consultation with the Mayor, is considered to be of an urgent or time sensitive nature, or which could affect the security of property or health or well-being of the residents of the City of Burlington, or if a state of emergency is declared, or is so advised by a Provincial Ministry, the notice requirements of this policy may be reduced or waived.

Definitions:

For the purpose of this policy, unless otherwise stated, the following definitions shall apply:

Term Definition
Act Means the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c 25 as amended, and any successor legislation in substitution thereof and included regulation thereunder.
City Means The Corporation of the City of Burlington
Council Means the Council of The Corporation of the City of Burlington
Direct Mail Means notice sent via regular mail or registered mail.

Term Definition
Department Head Means an officer or employee of the City who will generally hold the title of ‘Director, appointed by the City Manager or Council, as applicable, to oversee a department, or a person appointed or designated to act in place of the Director when the Director is absent or refuses to act.

Mayor Means the Head of Council of The Corporation of the City of Burlington elected or appointed in accordance with the Municipal Act, 2001 and the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 32, as amended, or the Deputy Mayor or Acting Mayor as may be appointed or designated by Council from time to time.

Newspaper Means a printed publication having general circulation in the City of Burlington.

Notice Means a written, printed, published, or posted notification or announcement.

Plain Language Means a way of writing, organizing and presenting information so that it makes sense and is easy to read.

Information should be presented with straightforward vocabulary and sentence structures and by organizing material clearly and logically, to ensure that messaging is clearly understood.

Procedure By-law Means the by-law to provide for the rules of order of Council and its Committees, 2021-31, as amended, and any successor legislation in substitution thereof.

Public Notice or Notice to the Public Means notice given to the public generally but does not include notice given only to specified persons.

Term Definition
Public Notices Page Means the webpage on the City of
Burlington’s website where notices are posted and archived.
Subject Matter Means the issue, measure, requirement, meeting or other matter in respect of which a notice is being given.
Website Means the official internet website of the City of Burlington whose uniform locator is known as www.burlington.ca.

References:

 Municipal Act, 2001, c. 25, as amended
 Planning Act, 1990, c.P.13, as amended
 Conducting Engagement and Research Regarding City Projects, Initiatives, and Services Corporate Policy
 Corporate Communications Policy
 Roadways and Infrastructure – Road Closures – Temporary and Permanent Corporate Policy

Roles:

Accountable:

Council is accountable for approving this Public Notice Policy, and any necessary amendments.
The City Manager is accountable for approving amendments for Council’s consideration and waiving this Public Notice Policy when required in accordance with Objective 9.

The City Clerk is accountable for recommending and preparing any necessary amendments to the Public Notice Policy, collecting concerns or complaints relating to the Public Notice Policy and ensure staff prepare and circulate notices within the designated time.

Responsible:
Directors are responsible for ensuring staff prepare and circulate notices within the designated time.

City Staff are responsible for preparing notices within designated timeframes and coordinating notices to be published (via newspaper, mail, and/or website).

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2 comments to How the city now wants to provide notice to the public

  • Eve St Clair

    Liberal Mayor enacts this one year before an election trying to promote an open and transparent Council . Get back to City Hall meetings and delegations at Council chamber . Nice try Madame Mayor and enjoy your one term of office

    • Eve St. Clair is spot on. There has been a huge transparency and accountability problem at City Hall since 2014 beginning with a Meed Ward headed group that decimated our Procedure By-laws removing sections that had been in there to support transparency and accountability and calling them housekeeping matters (all documented through delegations). Meed Ward likes the way it is right now with her ability to control delegations ….. things need to change drastically in terms of the best interests of the community the Burlington and Halton community reputedly serve rather than council members serving their own interests. The evidence is piling up that things are not the way they are supposed to be when it comes to how this council and staff operates outside the Ontario legislated framework in terms of public notices and the legislation that governs them being set aside and needs addressing publicly.

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