Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro on Wednesday introduced Bill 68, An Act to amend various acts in relation to municipalities, that he said "will help strengthen local governments and enhance their ability to serve the residents of their communities."
The changes would mean regional council chairs such as those in York and Peel Regions, would be elected, as opposed to being appointed by city and town councillors. As well, municipalities will have to write a code of conduct for councillors and local board members, and local integrity commissioners would be able to investigate complaints at their own discretion, something Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube has called for in his latest annual report, the first after he was given oversight of municipalities.
"Our Office was consulted as part of this process and recommended, among other things, that all municipalities be required to adopt a code of conduct, and that they be provided with a uniform framework to ensure consistent standards in codes across the province," the report reads.
Mauro's bill also lumps in Liberal MPP Daiene Vernile's private members' bill to enshrine parental and pregnancy leave for local politicians, who currently are required to get council's approval for a leave of absence, or forfeit their seat. It's something NDP MPP Catherine Fife has also written to Mauro about.
Combined, the proposed changes would amend the Municipal Act, the City of Toronto Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Here's what's on offer, per a government release:
- 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 bylaws 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.