Posted by: solosnowbird | May 18, 2017

May 18, 2017 – Quebec City

On our second day we visited Quebec City.  The area inside the city walls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Quebec City City Hall visit was provided by the Assistant City Clerk who described the  unique structure of their government along with the history of the City which was established in 1608. One of the oldest cities,  if not the only city in North America.

January 1, 2006, marked the rebirth of the cities of L’Ancienne-Lorette and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. By virtue of the Act Respecting the Exercise of Certain Municipal Powers in Certain Urban Agglomerations, the Québec City agglomeration, composed of the City of Québec and the two reconstituted municipalities, was created that same day.  It was noted the power of the Mayor was given up in order to show a collaboration.   Many of the previous historical powers were removed from this office and granted to the City Council, Borough Councils, Agglomeration Council and Executive Committee which is made up of Council members

This new law has led to certain jurisdictions being shared between the three cities and certain others becoming exclusive local responsibilities, namely local services.

The City Clerks office supports the City Council and has a $4.3 million budget.  The total city budget is $1.42 billion. This budget includes funds to conduct their general elections every four years for a population 545, 485 with a staff of 35.  The over all staff for the city is 5000.  He noted they have 2000 people working their election events.

The roles and duties described are familiar to the group for the office of City Clerk but on a much grander scale.  He noted the biggest issue for the office is the management of electronic records as the information is created faster than they can capture.

Some interesting facts of the make up of the Quebec Village include the services for roads in a northern province. Quebec City has 187 sq miles in the city with 1345 roads. Based on the rough winters, as it was shared with the Study Abroad group they get MORE snow than Montreal.  Over 4 meters (13.12 feet) . It was clarified the biggest part of the budget is road maintenance.

Further discussion and questions were shared regarding  the city’s election.  It was noted the provincial government does not allow for mail in ballots due to the size of rural municipalities. The Assistant City Attorney did explain they have seen an increase in voter participation in their last election by 10%, with a 55 % voter turnout.

Their office receives over 3000 Record requests per year. The requests are free and must be provided within 20 days.   A Record request may be reviewed or overridden by a committee called the Adjunctive Division of the Commission of  Access and Documents.

After our visit to City Hall,  we had the opportunity to have a delightful lunch at parliament with formal settings amongst the many visitors to this government entity.  We were also able to explore the historic city prior to the group returning to Parliament for a tour where we were able to witness committee work in action.




Posted by: solosnowbird | May 17, 2017

Ottawa-May 17, 2017

After a brief tour of Ottawa including Parliment, the 21 Municipal Clerks and Deputies were treated to a beautiful lunch by Mr. Rick O’Connor, City Clerk and City Solicator and his staff of Ottawa.  After lunch, Mr. O’Connor provided an overview of the History of Ottawa, in particular the 2000-2001 combining 11 municipalities and the regional government into one government for the City Ottawa. The City is over  90 Kilometers….that is over 360,000 square feet for those below the Canadian border.   As part of this amalgamation, the government was tasked to meet the diversity of areas, in particular the rural residents based on the 2004 Citizens Survey.  A summit was done held in 2005-2006 to address those rural issues and formed representation for these residents. A Rural Affairs office was created. The  Affairs office is tasked to ensure they are not impacted by any projects or processes. 

In addition, Mr. O’Connor also provided and overview of Bilingualism in Canada. He also noted his office oversees the requests for these services and the office of Translate Services provided translations of every council meeting to French.  This office receives over 31,000 requests for translations a year. In perspective, I’m thankful for my 300 plus public record requests a year and happy to transcribe the Council minutes in one language. 

Further into the session he discussed closed or in camera meetings also known as executive sessions in some municipalities.  It’s seems to be common to have these dialogues regarding open government and transparency.  It was noted the City of Ottawa has had only five in camera reviews per year- mostly due to labor disputes or labor contracts.   He described the positive reception the government has received from the media.

It was shared with the group all of the various mechanisms in place to ensure this transparency and accountability.  The City has an Integrity Commissioner, Lobbyist Register and a Meeting Investigator. In addition, he also outlined the tools they used to prepare their council members, ethic guidelines, “Council Bootcamp” (orientation) and a Governance review which is held twice during terms. This Governance review is conducted by interviewing each council member, and appointments to committees to see what they would like to do better going forward. This information is shared with the incoming members who are tasked to put any changes forward as recommended. 

What was absolutely fascinating from this session was the fact they did away with verbal staff reports in council meetings.  The idea was to protect both staff and the city from comments made out of context or not known that may come from the presentation.   

Posted by: solosnowbird | March 8, 2017

2017 IIMC Study Abroad Program

Will be taking another trip- Exploring three iconic Canadian cities and submerging into the Canadian French culture. The program will be centralized in Montréal, home to the 71st IIMC Annual Conference, and will feature day trips to Québec City, Montréal and Ottawa, Ontario.

Posted by: solosnowbird | October 4, 2013

Information Management Update – Scottish FOI


Dr. Meechan, Glascow Asset Governance Manager provided a brief overview of the Scottish Freedom Information Act, Data Protection Act and the Environmental Information regulations at the Glasgow City Council Chamber. The general entitlement of the information is held by the local authorities and there is a 20 working day response requirement. In addition there are a Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations that confer a right to ask a public body if you can reuse their information. Dr. Meechan noted no one has used theses regs and precisely Zero requests since 2005.

The new public record act of 2011 is home grown legislation arising from a review of historic abuse in children’s homes survivors if abuse were encountering widespread difficulty in recovering records. Yes, there are fines up to £500,000 that can be applied to a local authority- Civil Penalties imposed by the court.

Data sharing protection new law includes guidance on duties of a data controller and privacy notices. He noted that there is still confusion around the interface and carrying out between the FOI and data protection. The FOI is not “applicant blind” when personal data is requested and the clerks need to asses the interests of the applicant who is requesting or receiving the personal data.

Glascow received 489 FOI requests in the last five months and only 6 FOI exemptions used. Did not obtain any fees since most of the requests were exempt under the act.

With new requirement to submit a records management plan , Glascow has submitted their first draft (trench) at the end of August with a formal submission in a few weeks.


Posted by: solosnowbird | October 4, 2013

Last day of Study Abroad- SOLAR Conference

Today is our day to attend the SOLAR conference. Soon, we will be making our way up to the Glascow City Chambers to begin our sessions.


Posted by: solosnowbird | October 3, 2013

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

Today we were granted an educational session with the National Park System. This system was set up under the national parks act of 2000. The first park opened in 2002 funded by the Scottish government and reports only to parliament. The 17 board members act as a non departmental public body (NDBP) and are able to create Bylaws to operate the housing and camp facilities within the park. The majority funding is through a grant aid and is obtained from the Scottish Government. Along with planning fees, rental properties revenues and less than £200,000 received from other areas for a total of £ 8 m budget.

Mr. Peter Stevenson serves as the governor (manager) of the Loch Lomond National Park and provided a brief slide show and video regarding the issues facing the park such as graffiti, litter, and after hours visitations.

Peter provided an overview of the Planning process over the entire park and noted there is an enforcement officer to check on property within the park in additional to police services. It was noted the even if you own your own home or property and you would like to make changes, you must go through their planning and design need of the national park authority.

A national park partnership was developed from over 19 partner organizations to achieve the goals of the conservation and recreation which includes local authorities, local agencies, conservation groups, land groups and police.

Successes for the park included the
~Ben Author five star resort planning permission
~Loch Lomond water bus
~Water Vole introduction from the 1980s
~A82(roadway) upgrade and pulpit rock

The The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is a beautiful place to visit but is also a working landscape. The National Park Authority is trying to strike a balance to care for its unique and special qualities focusing on three areas of work –conserving and enhancing the natural cultural heritage, ensuring visitors and residents enjoy the park safely, and promoting vibrant communities through rural development.





Posted by: solosnowbird | October 2, 2013

Scotland’s electoral process: systems and structures

Mary Pitcaithly, Electoral Board for Scotland, Chris Highcock of Edinburgh EMB and Andy O’Neill provided the cortex of the elections, who are the players, responsibilities and voting systems used. They also provided a brief review of the Scottish referendum that will be voted on in a year.

Chris notes that the electoral commission is trying to ensure transparency, efficiency, consistency and accessibility – sound familiar? The election commission for Scotland tries do ensure the government and parliaments framework are done right.

Local authorities have appointed if a returning officer who is to carry out the election not the chief executive. The writ is ” return” to the parliament. They also appoint the registration officer who registers electors.

The electoral administration act of 2011 provided clarification that the overriding g objective to ensure that electoral votes are codices in the interest of the voter and not on vendors or the systems.

Allen clarified the make up of the current the election commission is working as a hybrid and focusing on registering 16 year olds for the referendum and marketing with ads on the Telly. The election commission are appointed by the Queen. The commission is accountable to UK parliament and not the Scottish government (which is what ever major party is in control) and only provides reports to Scottish parliament. There are currently 405 political parties in the UK and make sure they all are registered which costs £120 to register and be able to report election finance. Don’t fine people, spend a lot of time to talking with them to comply with this portion of the election. The finance reporting is available on the website.

Currently there is no limitation. On donations and the funds reported spent on campaigns are no where the level if the spending in the United States. There is no buying tv time for campaign ads and there is delivery of free election material via postal royal mail service limited one, per household not voter.

The finance piece of reporting in Scotland is very interesting and relies on self governance for reporting and only follow up upon complaint basis. If you are running for Scottish parliament , you are limited to spending £30,000. You can only spend £40,000 for UK parliament.

Ballots are counted by hand and are only in paper form for local elections. There are postal voting options, no early voting, and you must register for the option to vote by mail. The voting hours are for 7:00am to 10:00 pm.

Counting of ballots for Scottish elections was quite shocking. All ballots for elections, except for local elections who use rank voting, are counted after polls close and that is inclusive of the postal ballots- all by hand. Election results are ready the next day or two. The local elections who utilize rank voting are using electronic systems for counting.

Voter turnout is between 40-70% per election with the majority of local elections conducted by postal mail.

It sounds like everyone in the world is going to be watching the Scottish election results of September 18, 2014 due to the referendum. Certainly feel a lot of pain for those who will be counting the election results with an expectation of 80% voter turnout with 40 million registered voters.


Posted by: solosnowbird | October 2, 2013

Family history -Genealogical tourism

It’s all about the records!!

Mr Grant Law, Dundee License Registar provided a lengthy review of the research tools and records available for those abroad who come to trace their roots. He noted a lot of inquiries are made via their website and email. The City retains a family database for searching the BDM and census records in Scotland’s People (National Records). The software they use is called brothers keeper and many of their records date back to the 1500’s The database links to the scanned image of censure records and such.

He reviewed his other responsibilities for administering interments, lairs, memorials. The current homegrown system software used provides only five fields to search on, no dates, and provides the location in the cemetery and the type of burial. In further review of the information in the next screen you can go to the location of the grave and see the person or persons (yes, there can be more than one) buried in this location. Some records contain information about the person occupation and the inspection dates of the graves. Essentially this software keeps track of the property and what happens to it. Further information regarding the burials is contained in a simple excel spreadsheet.

Martin Allen provided a review of the Dundee City Archives which are contained on the lower ground floor of the Caird Hall which is really not the ground floor since the street slopes toward the river/water. It is two stories up. The archives was Established in 1969 to fulfill obligations under a more current Scottish act from 1996 in which some if their records were inherited. Their council started the system at the time the authority was under local control. In Dundee, each department has their own records manager and their department helps over see the process. Yes, they do have a retention schedule. The national records of Scotland are on loan to the city are maintained in a separate catalogue/category to help with research pre1996. The local authority records date back to 14 th century to 1975.

Local authority records include:
-Valuation rolls, school logs and admission registers
-Records of poor relief
-Burial records for closed cemeteries e.g.Howff
-Council minutes
-vehicle registers

The valuation rolls are quite valuable with research to show who owned the property and tracing people between the census years.

Records held on loan from the national records of scotland (NRS) include:

Dundee presbytery church
Customs and exise
Justice of peace
Montrose and Arbroath fishery 19 th century herring fishing was huge at this time and tied to tax records and exports which provides information regarding boat owners
Dundee registers of sasines
Caledon shipyard
Family estate papers-Wedderburn of Pearsie, Northesk..

Mr. Iain Flett, City Archivist Explained the Presbytery minutes would contain information for illegitimate children as many births were not recorded in the census records.

Mr. Allen notes that they do have a group of volunteers to help with the digitizing of this information and have provided the indexing for the FDCA website.

It was noted that the local library shares information and contain collections related to the city prior to the local authority creation of their archives.

He reviewed the special collections held by the library which included 1700 Scottish music which was outlawed along with the tartans.



Posted by: solosnowbird | October 2, 2013

Glenrothes- a new city

So an extra evening session today aftwr an afternoon in St. Andrews. Mr Andrew Ferguson from Fife and his father, Keith who served as legal services for twenty years gave an overview of the Scottish area after WWII. He noted that Marshall aid for the USA and Europe opened up markets for British industry. A New coal reserves discussion came about for Scotland Theses changes include formation of new government. The national acts for coal, health service, insurance, town and country planning, local government all came about after WWII. The new town concept was to encourage and help replace the war damage cities with new suburbs with the new development corporations directly accountable to local government.

Me. Andrew Anderson provided an overview of the government which governed the country in1948 which included an SOS for Scotland and local governments with county, district and bough councils.

Glenrothes was planned between several existing villages. Without absorbing with a huge minor population to support the mining industry. The new board was made of 8 members who were part time, not paid and answerable to the SOS with a mixed of local authority being made up of others with industry experience or local community interest. Through this discussion they provided terminology of a quango which means the Non controversial actions of government are to be carried out without any controversy.

Me. Anderson notes there were going to be Planned precincts of 1150 houses, with a church, corner shop and a community hall. He noted the coal industry anticipated did not appear because of issues with the mine. It was flooding and did not work well and closed in 1961. So he noted that there was a need for a Revised target with light industry with no pollution zone and a population of 55,000.

Andrew noted in order for this to work, they came up with a Plan B for this concept. It was necessary to have the industry home grown for the area with inward investment from Beckman’s Brand Rex, focused on public service, and the health board. He discussed the investments made to the social concepts and the community which included art and garden spaces. With the change in the Uk government, the privatization agenda was a concern and the district councils were abolished and replaced with unitary authorities. Just when the new towns were making a profit and they were ready to boom, the new town development wound up (came to an end). A Planned economy concept were auctioned off and went to private hands and Glenrothes went away as a government and became an area committee.


Posted by: solosnowbird | October 1, 2013

Fife Council

Good Morning from Fife, Scotland. Currently sitting in an Executive Committee meeting where they are hearing the apologies of absences. The Fife Council is the third largest local authority in Scotland with 78 councilors members elected. As noted earlier on our education sessions, the committees do most of the work and the only few key discussions are taken up with Council sitting in full session. Today on the executive committees agenda are discussions regarding the social work service’s unable to meet their budget, the Representative of the Committee (Susan) is noting the difficulties or over spending based on needs. It appears the current budget of £5.698m is rapidly rising and will be at £19m in 2015/16 ( a two year budget cycle) to carry services at the current level. However to remedy the situation, the are several reductions proposed to older people services and foster care. On addition note, there has been a turnover and vacancy for Heads of these services which have provided a savings as well. The Social Work Committee is require to under take a priority based review immediately and provide a report back to the Executive Committee by December 2013. The agenda and packet are 93 pages long – all in Paper!

There was lengthy sometimes heated dialogue regarding housing in particular the housing tenant situation for older persons paying sheltered rent directly from their banks and being able to maintain the privacy of the tenants, how repairs are reported, charges to contact to the HFC (Housing Fife Committee” , and how to handle the arrears. In conclusion, the members all agreed to move forward the staff’s recommendations in their report. Staff recommendations included alternatives to enhance the housing management, providing a rent consultation process for 2014/15 and the removal of the morning call services. This discussion was the longest discussion of the 11 items on the agenda. The previous agenda from September 10th had 256 items and the meeting was three hours long. The minutes approved showed an action style set of documents that were only seven pages in length for these 256 items. 20131001-190241.jpg

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