More transparency in local governance

The provincial government has proposed some rule changes it says will strengthen accountability and transparency in local government decision-making.

The proposed legislation follows discussions the province has held with the Office of the Auditor General, said Minister for Local Government Ron Lemieux.

Bill 23 proposes a series of amendments that, among other things, would require councils notify the public about capital projects that require borrowing so the public can first have input.

It would also expand existing legislation to reduce the potential for conflict-of-interest situations when municipalities work regionally. Councils would also be required to report on how they’ve responded to any recommendations made from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) ensuring that the public is both kept aware of recommendations and how councils are responding.

Other changes include setting a code of conduct that councillors, mayors and reeves can be censured if they fail to comply, tendering and procurement policies to ensure spending decisions are objective and fair, and policy that ensures private use of municipal equipment is clear and consistently applied.

Employees of regional municipal bodies would also be required to take leaves of absence before they could be nominated or elected to council and municipal council members would have to disclose in their annual statement of assets and interests all properties they own in the province, not just property they own in the municipality. These statements are available for review by the public.

“It is an expectation that municipal councils, like all governments, make decisions that are in the best interests of the municipality as a whole,” said Lemieux.

“This strengthens citizens’ trust and confidence in their municipal governments. Our government believes in accountability within all levels of government.”

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