Province just might provide the nudge city manager needs to get a code of conduct in place for members of city council.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 16th, 2016



Queen’s Park – that where your provincial government lives announced today that they were putting forward legislation that will “Help municipal rules work better for communities”. Let the public decide how much better things get.

The legislation is designed to help local governments be more open, flexible and accountable to the people they serve.

Visual - city council full

At some point this city council will get a Code of Conduct for Council in place. They haven’t managed to agree on one yet which does not mean their conduct is beyond reproach.

The Municipal Act, and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act set out the roles, responsibilities and conflict of interest rules for Ontario’s municipalities. If passed, these changes would benefit local governments and residents by:

• Increasing fairness and reducing barriers for women and parents elected to municipal governments by allowing time off for pregnancy or parental leave
• Empowering municipalities to address climate change in their communities through by-laws related to green construction in certain circumstances
• Broadening municipal investment powers, which may help better finance repairs and replacements of local infrastructure
• Improving access to justice for the public and for municipal councillors by allowing integrity commissioners to investigate complaints
• Requiring municipalities to have a code of conduct for members of municipal councils and local boards.

More specifically, the province will:

Requiring municipalities to establish codes of conduct for members of municipal council and local boards.

James Ridge Day 1

City manager James Ridge – given the task of coming up with a Code of Conduct for city council – more than six months ago.

Burlington has been struggling with this one for more than a year.  At this point th creation of a code of Conduct for council members is in the hands of city manager James Ridge – he hasn’t said a word publicly since the task was put on his plate.

Providing the public and municipal Councillors with access to integrity commissioners with broadened powers to investigate complaints, provide advice and initiate investigations related to conflicts of interest and the municipality’s code of conduct.

Burlington has a contract with a group who serve as “ombudsmen” for the city.

Updating the definition of “meeting” in certain cases within the legislation to help ensure that rules would be clearer for municipal officials, local board members and the public

This should be interesting.  When there is a contentious decision to be made – they do like to hurry up the meeting and slip something through or go into closed session.

Enhancing justice by providing a broader range of penalties for contraventions to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

Burlington is going to love this one – this city council can’t seem to recognize a conflict of interest on the part of one of its members when it is close to blatant.  One wonders why a member of council didn’t challenge the member of Council who took the city to the Ontario Municipal Board over a Committee of Adjustment matter,

These changes come as a result of public consultations as well as feedback from municipalities and stakeholders.

The government isn’t doing this out of the goodness in their hearts – current rules call for the province to review the Municipal Act every five years. The purpose is to address and incorporate broader themes of accountability and transparency into the review.

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4 comments to Province just might provide the nudge city manager needs to get a code of conduct in place for members of city council.

  • John


    The code of conduct for council is being discussed within a broader governance charter the city is trying to establish. Mr. Ridge can facilitate the discussion and suggest, even present a code of conduct however, council has the responsibility to approve it.
    Until council settles on a new code the existing code of practice, approved without change by this council, is what we have to work with. A councilor has even used the existing code to defend actions by quoting exceptions contained in it.

    The changes proposed by the province are good steps however, it takes some time to approve legislation. By then we may have our new code of conduct in place.

    • Phillip

      John, in my opinion, this council and mayor have enough time to create a meaningful Code of Conduct. The fact that they have failed to do so reflects the need, as reflected in so many recent decisions at City Hall, to replace every single councillor and the mayor in the next election.

      • John

        Phillip – What is it that you perceive to be in the code of conduct that would be different than what we have now ?

        The current code of practice for councilors has been around since 1995, reviewed and approved without amendment by this council in 2012 and is due to be reviewed again in April 2017.
        My understanding is council is looking to add additional language to a new code of conduct however, we have something in place that if followed by council has and would continue to work for the city.

        It seems quite reasonable that council is sorting thru any changes they want to include and then replace the code of conduct with a new code of practice as part of the 2017 review.

        Do councilors always work within the current code ?, not in my opinion, however, a new code doesn’t change that or guarantee compliance.

        • John

          It seems quite reasonable that council is sorting thru any changes they want to include and then replace the code of conduct with a new code of practice as part of the 2017 review.

          Sorry that’s reversed, replace the code of practice with a new code of conduct.

          Editor’s note: What isn’t reasonable is the amount of time it is taking to get the Code of Conduct in place – and then understanding while 7 people cannot agree on how they should behave. They should be ashamed of themselves.