• Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin receives Ottawa’s Highest Honour

    March 23rd, 2016 – We all carry keys with us:  keys to doors, cars, lockers, you name it — anything we feel is valuable enough to put a lock on. But very few people own a Key to the City of Ottawa.

    An ornamental key – the Key to the City – is presented to esteemed residents, visitors and others whom the City of Ottawa wishes to honour. The key is symbolic of medieval walled cities, the gates of which would be guarded during the day and locked at night. Being given such a key means the recipient is free to enter and leave the city whenever they want, as a trusted friend of city residents.

    On Tuesday, March 22, Mayor Jim Watson presented the Key to the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada. She was the most recent of 85 individuals and organizations to receive Ottawa’s highest honour.

    Chief Justice McLachlin is the 17th and current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the first woman to hold this position, and the longest serving Chief Justice in Canadian history.

    The first Key to the City of Ottawa was presented by Mayor Stanley Lewis at Union Train Station on

    November 4, 1935, to Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir as they arrived in Ottawa to begin Lord Tweedsmuir’s term as Canada’s Governor  General.

    Past Key-to-the-City recipients include Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, author Margaret Atwood, photographers Yousuf and Malak Karsh, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, actress Sandra Oh and Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

  • City Council approves Accountability Framework

    City Council has approved the remaining pieces of the City’s Accountability Framework, as recommended by the City’s Integrity Commissioner, Robert Marleau, continuing its commitment to making municipal government more transparent and accountable to the public.

    The Code of Conduct for Members of Council, Gifts Registry, Council Expense Policy and Community, Fundraising and Special Events Policy, in addition to the existing Public Disclosure of Office Expenses, Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registry, constitute the most comprehensive set of integrity guidelines and practises implemented voluntarilyat the municipal level in the Province of Ontario.

    The final pieces of the City Council’s Accountability Framework, as approved by City Council, include:

     – Code of Conduct for Members of Council: The Code is based on the view that elected officials make decisions with an open mind, with concern for the public good and not personal benefit, and without giving preferential treatment to family, friends and supporters. The Code emphasizes that elected officials should be seen to be open about the manner in which they perform their role as Members of Council, with proactive disclosure being an important tool to increase public trust. The Code will also apply to citizen members of the Transit Commission and Built Heritage Sub-Committee with respect to City business.

     – Gifts Registry: Members will disclose all gifts, benefits and hospitality received which individually exceed $30 from one source in a calendar year. Event tickets of a value exceeding $30 will also be disclosed, listing who attended with the Member or, if donated, to whom or to what organization the ticket was donated. Disclosures will be listed quarterly on ottawa.ca.

    – Council Expense Policy: Will guide how Members of Council spend their Constituency Services Budgets. It reflects current practices and reinforces the existing rules and restrictions surrounding Corporate/Purchasing Cards, as well as a Member’s personal liability with respect to any budget overages and strengthens accounting practices based on audits in other jurisdictions. It also includes adding public disclosure for all City-related business travel, establishing a 3.5% cap for donations and prohibiting contributions to other City-funded programs and services except by Council motion.

     – Community, Fundraising and Special Events Policy: A new, formal policy to govern Member events and Members’ benevolent (charitable) activities. It codifies current accounting practices for specific, sponsored events and prohibits the solicitation or acceptance of donations or sponsorships from a lobbyist, or their clients or employees of the client, with active registrations in the Lobbyist Registry without pre-approval from the Integrity Commissioner. It establishes procedures surrounding third-party organized charitable events sponsored by a Member, and provides additional guidelines for municipal election years, while requiring the annual disclosure of sponsorships and expenses related to some specific Member-organized events.

    The framework reflects extensive consultation with every Member of Council and other integrity officials, as well as collaboration with the City Clerk and Solicitor and his staff.

    The Code of Conduct and its companion pieces will take effect on July 1, 2013.

  • Integrity Commissioner recommends Code of Conduct, Expense Policy for Council

    Ottawa – The City of Ottawa’s Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Robert Marleau, has presented his recommendations for the final major pieces of City Council’s Accountability Framework. The package includes a Code of Conduct for Members of Council, a Gifts Registry, a Council Expense Policy and Community, Fundraising and Special Events Policy.

    As part of the development of the draft Code of Conduct and companion policies, Mr. Marleau consulted with every Member of Council and with other integrity officials and experts. He also worked closely with the City Clerk and Solicitor and his staff in preparation of these proposals for the Joint Governance Renewal and Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting of April 25, 2013.

    “The City of Ottawa is in the enviable position of putting in place an ethical framework that isn’t the result of scandal,” said Mr. Marleau. “The draft Code of Conduct and companion policies are largely based on what City Council already does, along with best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. All of the pieces have been drafted to work together to enhance transparency and public trust.”

    Members of Council have been disclosing their expenses monthly since January 2011 and have approved specific guidelines for this disclosure including the level of detail that must be provided for certain expenses. City Council established the Lobbyist Registry and created the office of Integrity Commissioner on July 11, 2012. At that time, the Integrity Commissioner was tasked with developing the rest of the Accountability Framework.

    The four recommended policies are:

    Code of Conduct for Members of Council: The recommended provisions of the Code are based on the view that elected officials make decisions with an open mind, with concern for the public good and not personal benefit, and without giving preferential treatment to family, friends and supporters. The Code emphasizes that elected officials should be seen to be open about the manner in which they perform their role as Members of Council, with proactive disclosure being an important tool to increase public trust. The proposed Code will also apply to citizen members of the Transit Commission and Built Heritage Sub-Committee with respect to City business.

    Gifts Registry: It is recommended that Members disclose all gifts, benefits and hospitality received which individually exceed $200 from one source in a calendar year. Event tickets of a value exceeding $30 would also be disclosed, listing who attended with the Member or, if donated, to whom or to what organization the ticket was donated. Disclosure would be listed quarterly on Ottawa.ca.

    Council Expense Policy: The proposed Council Expense Policy guides how Members of Council may spend their Constituency Services Budgets. Most of the recommendations reflect current practices and reinforce the existing rules and restrictions surrounding Corporate/Purchasing Cards, as well as a Member’s personal liability with respect to any budget overages and strengthens accounting practices based on audits in other jurisdictions. New elements recommended include adding public disclosure for all City-related business travel, establishing a 3.5% threshold for donations and prohibiting contributions to other City-funded programs and services except by Council motion.

    Community, Fundraising and Special Events Policy: These recommendations create a new, formal policy to govern Member events and Members’ benevolent (charitable) activities. The proposals codify current accounting practices for specific, sponsored events and prohibit the solicitation or acceptance of donations or sponsorships from a lobbyist, or their clients or employees of the client, with active registrations in the Lobbyist Registry without pre-approval from the Integrity Commissioner. The proposals establish procedures surrounding third-party organized charitable events sponsored by a Member, and provide additional guidelines for municipal election years, while requiring the annual disclosure of sponsorships and expenses related to some specific Member-organized events.

    “These are foundation policies,” emphasized Mr. Marleau. “They will be reviewed and refined on a continuous basis, along with all of the other governance practices in the City of Ottawa. A strong ethical framework is a living thing.”

    The Code of Conduct report includes the complaint process established by the Integrity Commissioner and there will be no fee charged for making a complaint. Staff is recommending the Code of Conduct and companion policies take effect on July 1, 2013 to allow for an orderly transition.

    The Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal and the Finance and Economic Development Committee will consider the Integrity Commissioner’s proposal beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2013 in the Council Chambers. The Committee’s recommendations are expected to be considered by City Council at their May 8, 2013 meeting.

  • Council approves Lobbyist Registry and Integrity Commissioner

    Ottawa – City Council today approved creation of a new Lobbyist Registry and establishment of an Integrity Commissioner to oversee the registry and to assist in the establishment of a Code of Conduct, Expense Policy and Gifts Registry for Members of Council.

    These initiatives are key elements in governance renewal at City Hall intended to make municipal government more transparent and accountable.

    “In the 2010 election, I made a commitment to the people of Ottawa that we would bring greater openness and transparency to City Hall,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “All of these measures are part of an overall, balanced package that moves us towards that goal and brings more clarity to what we do.”

    The new Lobbyist Registry institutes a number of steps to ensure:

     – Clear definitions and distinctions between lobbying activities and advocacy work.

     – Recognition that lobbying can be any form of substantive communication in a formal or informal setting.

     – Advocacy activities by not-for-profit groups would not need to be registered, unless they have paid staff.

    The new Integrity Commissioner will be independent and impartial and will report to Council on advice relating to the Code of Conduct and other rules related to ethics. The Integrity Commissioner will assist members of Council on best practices and ethical considerations and will also act as the City’s Meetings Investigator and Lobbyist Registrar. Reports will be public and the Integrity Commissioner will have the power to recommend sanctions.

    “The Integrity Commissioner will be there to assist us to give us an unbiased, objective opinion without fear or favour,” said Mayor Watson. “This will allow Councillors to seek advice whenever in doubt.”

    Creation of the Lobbyist Registry and establishment of the Integrity Commissioner are effective September 1, 2012.

  • City Governance Agenda moving forward

    Ottawa – Today the City released three reports on the next steps in improving accountability at City Hall and renewing the City’s Advisory Committees. These reports will be addressed at a special Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal Sub-Committee and the Finance and Economic Development Committee on July 6, 2012.

    One report recommends the establishment of an Integrity Commissioner to oversee and help establish the upcoming Code of Conduct, Expense Policy and Gifts Registry for Members of Council; the second proposes recommendations on the creation of a Lobbyist Registry that address the issues raised at the December 1, 2011 Governance Renewal Sub-Committee meeting;  and the third recommends a revitalized structure for the City’s Advisory Committees to make it more effective for both citizen volunteers and elected officials.

    “In the 2010 election I made a commitment to the people of Ottawa that we would make City Hall more accountable through greater openness and transparency,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “The concrete initiatives outlined in these reports move us forward towards achieving that goal and I intend to ask my council colleagues for their support.”

    In December 2010, City Council approved the development of a new accountability framework calling for the posting of expenses online as well as future steps to create a lobbyist registry; an Integrity Commissioner and direction to staff to review and make recommendations for a more effective Advisory Committee structure and operations, among other measures.

    Unlike both the federal and provincial governments, the City of Ottawa does not currently have a lobbyist registry or Integrity Commissioner to oversee the day-to-day relationships between government and the private sector. Further, staff is recommending that the forthcoming Code of Conduct, Expense Policy and Gifts Registry would benefit from the Integrity Commissioner’s involvement at the outset.

    “Other levels of government have shown that the role of an Integrity Commissioner can provide a valuable service to the community,” said the Mayor. “We have not had the problems that some cities have had, but an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.”

    The recommended changes to the proposed Lobbyist Registry address the key issues arising from the December 1, 2011 Governance Renewal Sub-Committee meeting. Specifically, the difference between advocacy work and lobbying is more clearly defined, advocacy activities carried out by not-for-profit groups would not need to be registered, lobbyists will only be required to register lobbying activities, and lobbying activities are more precisely defined. There would be no dual disclosure, but Members of Council and staff would be required to review the Registry monthly to ensure that instances where they were lobbied are recorded.

    The renewal of the Advisory Committee structure is another important pillar of the commitment to better governance and more openness. Currently, there are 15 advisory committees with 7-15 members. Despite the hard work of these individuals, there has, unfortunately, developed a lack of coordination between the work of these Committees, and the work of City Council.  This disconnect has grown significantly as more people choose to get involved through social media and other non-traditional forums.

    “We have heard from all corners that our Advisory Committee structure and processes were just not functioning,” said Mayor Watson. “City Staff have met with those currently involved, as well as looking at best practices elsewhere and I believe that this new Advisory Committee structure will be more engaging and allow volunteers to be and feel more valued by the City, and to more effectively provide input to their elected representatives.”

    The reports on the Lobbyist Registry and the Integrity Commissioner will be considered by the special Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal Sub-Committee and the Finance and Economic Development Committee on July 6, 2012 for recommendation to City Council at their July 11, 2012 meeting. The report recommending a renewal for the Advisory Committee structure will be tabled at the Special Meeting for consideration and receiving public delegations at a further special Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal Sub-Committee and the Finance and Economic Development Committee, to be held on August 30, 2012.

  • New Language Line makes City phone services more accessible to all residents

    Ottawa – The City of Ottawa has officially launched Language Line, a service that allows callers to participate in a three-way call with a translator and a City staff member. Now, residents can call one of the City’s dedicated phone lines and receive service in the language they are most comfortable speaking.

    “The new Language Line service ensures that City phone services such as 3-1-1 are more accessible than ever before,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “This is an important way of removing barriers between City services and the residents we serve.”

    When someone calls a City phone line, they now have the option to be placed into a three-way call with a translator and a City staff member. The translator will facilitate the conversation between the caller and City staff, allowing the caller to receive answers to their questions, or more information about City services in the language of their choice.

    City phone lines that are using the new service include the 3-1-1 Contact Centre, the Ottawa Public Health Information Line, OC Transpo Information Lines, Tax and Water Customer Service Line, Social Services Intake Line, and the offices of the Mayor and City Councillors

    According to research data, the most common languages in Ottawa spoken after English and French are Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Somali, Vietnamese, Spanish and Amharic. Language Line can provide simultaneous translation services in over 170 different languages.

    To raise awareness of this new service, the City will be working with local immigrant serving agencies, community health and resource centres, and representatives from various faith communities.

    To access this translation service, please call 3-1-1 or any of the call centres listed above, and the answering agent will activate this service on your behalf.

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  • Mayor Watson welcomes annual AG report

    Ottawa – Mayor Jim Watson today welcomed the release of the 2010 Annual Report from the Office of the Auditor General.

    “Transparency and accountability are key priorities for me and Council, as reflected in our creation of a separate Audit Sub-Committee,” said Mayor Watson. “Alain Lalonde and his staff perform a valuable service each year for taxpayers and I look forward to a high level of cooperation between management, the Auditor General and the Audit Sub-Committee as we implement recommendations from this Annual Report.”

    The 2010 AG Report consisted of 18 new audit projects, as well as a follow up of 22 previously completed audits from the years 2005 – 2008. Also included is the sixth annual report on the fraud and Waste Hotline.

    The Report will be reviewed by Committees and full Council in the coming weeks.

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  • Mayor Watson welcomes annual AG report

    Ottawa – Mayor Jim Watson today welcomed the release of the 2010 Annual Report from the Office of the Auditor General.

    “Transparency and accountability are key priorities for me and Council, as reflected in our creation of a separate Audit Sub-Committee,” said Mayor Watson. “Alain Lalonde and his staff perform a valuable service each year for taxpayers and I look forward to a high level of cooperation between management, the Auditor General and the Audit Sub-Committee as we implement recommendations from this Annual Report.”

    The 2010 AG Report consisted of 18 new audit projects, as well as a follow up of 22 previously completed audits from the years 2005 – 2008. Also included is the sixth annual report on the fraud and Waste Hotline.

    The Report will be reviewed by Committees and full Council in the coming weeks.

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  • Mayor and Council Bring New Accountability to City Hall

    Ottawa – Following through on Mayor Jim Watson’s campaign commitment to increase transparency and accountability at City Hall, office expenses for City Councillors, the Mayor’s Office and those of senior management will now be posted online.

    “We have to set a higher standard when it comes to shining the light on how hard earned tax dollars are being spent,” said Mayor Watson. “I am thankful Council voted unanimously to open up our books, helping to fulfill an important commitment I made during the election. But more importantly, I am grateful that a new level of openness has come to City Hall.”

    In December 2010, City Council approved the development of a new accountability framework calling for the posting of expenses online as well as future steps to create a lobbyist registry; a council code of conduct and an integrity commissioner.

    Starting today, and for the first time in the City’s history, residents will be able to visit ottawa.ca to see how their money is being spent. Expenses will be updated and posted every month.

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