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.   

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