On May 30, 2017, the Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, 2017 (Bill 68) received Royal Assent and is now law. Bill 68 introduced sweeping changes to the municipal legislative framework, including requirements (rather than options) for municipalities to have Council Codes of Conduct and Integrity Commissioners. It also expanded the powers of Integrity Commissioners. Other amendments included changes to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, Open Meeting requirements, Financial Sustainability measures, and a range of other general amendments.
One of the general amendments includes a requirement under section 270 (2.1) of the Municipal Act for municipalities to adopt a Council-Staff Relations Policy by March 1, 2019. While many municipalities have adopted employee or Council Codes of Conduct, this new requirement underscores the importance of establishing “rules of engagement” between Council as policy setters and staff as the experts hired to advise on and implement those policy decisions. Often, the lines between these distinct roles become blurred. It is not enough that all oars are in the water. The occupants of the boat must all be rowing the same direction otherwise the boat will simply go in circles. A lack of coordinated teamwork can result in operational paralysis.
It is beneficial to develop a policy that guides Council and staff on how they should interact to achieve efficiencies. When a municipal Council and its administration are aligned, service delivery is enhanced. This is where a Term of Council Strategic Plan that provides broadly defined visions, goals, and objectives sets the stage and a Council-Staff Relations Policy which establishes and enhances roles and relationships are incredibly powerful tools when used together.
Council-Staff Relations Policies are new for Ontario municipalities. There are few best practices to draw from. Add to this the fact that each municipality is different, be it in organizational design, size of Council or its unique challenges. These differences can make it daunting for municipalities to come up with an effective Council-Staff Relations Policy.
Municipal Government Wayfinders is ready to partner with you to create strategies that work for your municipality’s unique circumstance. Contact us at info@MGWayfinders.com or call our offices at 613-319-2940.