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Accountability and Transparency
In my previous and current term of Council my guiding principles have been:
- Accountability – do what we said we would do
- Transparency – be an open and inclusive local government
Financial (live within our means)
- Social responsibility (to build a community for everyone)
Accountability - These guiding principles have helped me stand firm and vote against those initiatives that would not have been good for the future financial viability of our city and community like the proposed Event Centre (the business case favored the out of town consortium and would have left the city with too large of a subsidy), the Art Gallery on the Waterfront (other options are available like repurposing the Eatons’ building as an Arts and Entertainment Centre) and many others.
Transparency, they have also helped reduce the number of in-camera meetings. Previously, Council was only meeting the bare minimum of the specific rules in the Municipal Act under which Council has the responsibility to deal with matters in-Camera (i.e. when individuals, contractual agreements, or personnel and legal matters are being discussed).
In light of the Ontario Legislature’s Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014, Thunder Bay’s new Council adopted procedures that showed that it is ahead of the curve and not behind it when dealing with the “public’s right to know”. For example, when moving back into open Council from a closed session, the Chair of the Committee of Council or the City Clerk explain the context of the matter before Council and without divulging any confidential information, discuss any content that is relevant to the matter so that the public is able to fully understand how Council ended up reaching their decision.
Financial responsibility, I have led the changes to the budget process that have enabled council to finalize the final budget in the first week of February instead of March, thereby allowing our administration and contractors an extra month in the winter for the tendering process and take full advantage of the short construction season.
We are now also doing monthly variance analysis instead of quarterly which has led to a higher standard of internal controls and scrutiny of expenditures that resulted in three years of continuous budget surpluses.
The concept of “Open Government” is very important to me, and I endeavored to “bring city hall to the people” through a number of pre-budget consultations with the community and town hall meetings that were livestreamed on social media and accessible to everyone. Questions were posed on-line and taken from the floor to give everyone a chance to be heard, ask questions and get an answer.
Financial responsibility alone is not sufficient to ensure the well being of our citizens and therefore social responsibility has and continues to play a large role in my vision of a progressive and sustainable community when no one is left behind.
To address the concerns of our citizens in regards to social issues like mental health and addiction, poverty, housing and homelessness as well as community safety, I have hosted a number of town hall meetings where a panel of experts presented the best available information and strategies on how to help develop a stronger and safer community, that can be found in the respective pages of this web site.
As member of the communication committee, I have also strongly supported the developed of an engagement strategy, as well as a complaint system through the public works dispatch system (624-2195 open 24/7 or e-mail at email@example.com) that captures and documents inquiries and complaints of all nature.
As Mayor I am committed to continue this process of engagement and open dialogue with you the citizen and our community. While the new city web site at www.thunderbay.ca is a great tool to get many answers and provide feedback, I believe that it is up to us the elected official to take the lead in reaching out and be available through a more open process that will clearly tell our community that we are prepared to be leaders when dealing with communication and transparency and the “public’s right to know”.