Strengthening Municipal Legislation
To help municipalities continue to meet the needs of the people they serve, the Modernizing Ontario's Municipal Legislation Act contains a number of measures to help local governments be more open, accountable and flexible.
Improving parental leave for council and trustees
Municipalities and school boards will be required to have a policy on pregnancy and parental leave for council members and school board trustees. The offices of members of council would not become vacant because of an absence related to pregnancy or parental leave for 20 consecutive weeks or less. Until now, only some municipalities have formal or informal policies regarding pregnancy or parental leave for members that include allowing absences from council meetings. Municipalities could still decide to excuse absences from meetings for any reason, including to provide for pregnancy or parental leave beyond 20 weeks.
Broadening municipal investment powers
Municipalities will have access to more resources to meet their community's needs. The changes promote municipal financial flexibility by allowing eligible municipalities to expand the ways they can invest money not immediately needed. This may help municipalities raise more revenues for repairs and replacements of local infrastructure.
Addressing climate change
Changes to the Municipal Act and the City of Toronto Act better position municipalities to become leaders in addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Municipalities will be required to have tree canopy policies, which they can tailor to suit local needs. Municipalities will also be able to require green construction standards in certain situations. This could include giving municipalities the power to require green roofs on new construction.
These changes build on the province's Climate Change Action Plan.
Improving access to justice
Municipalities will need to provide access to an integrity commissioner. It would be up to a municipality to decide whether or not to appoint their own full-time integrity commissioner, share the position with other municipalities, or retain someone on a fee-for-services basis.
Local integrity commissioners will have a broader role. They will give advice to members of council, as well as provide educational information to the public, the municipality, members of council and some local boards.
These changes, along with many other changes in the bill, would come into force on proclamation.
Accountability in local government
Every municipality in Ontario will need to have a local code of conduct in place for its council members and members of some local boards. These will include rules that guide the ethical conduct of those members and will help ensure that local governments continue to be open and accountable to the communities they serve.
Regional council representation
To help ensure local representation keeps up with Ontario's changing demographics, the make-up of regional councils will be regularly considered. Regional municipalities will undertake a mandatory review of regional council composition following every second municipal election. This will allow municipalities to make sure their councils best suit local needs.
Among other matters, the Modernizing Ontario's Municipal Legislation Act also clarifies the definition of a meeting of municipal council, certain locals boards and committees for specific purposes, removes a limit on municipal by-law powers respecting advertising devices (such as signs), and gives municipalities more tools to establish community hubs.