New Home for AMCTO’s Policy Blog

Yesterday AMCTO launched a revamped and revitalized website. As part of the transition, AMCTO’s policy blog will have a new home on the AMCTO website. The blog will continue to provide the same timely legislative and policy updates and analysis, just in a different location.

Access the new blog here.


AMCTO Website Update

AMCTO is excited to announce the launch of our new website effective Thursday, May 18th 2017. We believe you will find the new site to be fresh and appealing with easier navigation and improved usability from a member/customer perspective.

To allow for the transition to our new website, will be out of service for one day commencing Wednesday May 17th 2017. While the site is down, members/customers will not have access to on-line registrations; job broadcast services and other website links and resources. We apologize for this temporary inconvenience.

Once the new site is launched on Thursday, you will again have access to all of the regular AMCTO services. Please note; however, that it will not be possible to access any portion of our new website through links contained in AMCTO Express broadcasts issued prior to Wednesday, May 17th. Instead, you will need to go directly to the AMCTO website and look for the required page or resource.

Your feedback regarding the new website is important to us. So please don’t hesitate to let us know what you think about the site. Also, should you encounter any problems accessing the site or any related links or resources, please let us know right away. All such messages can be directed to

Thank you in advance for your patience.

Government Releases Proposed OMB Reforms

Today the Ministry of Municipal Affairs announced its proposed reforms the province’s land use planning appeals system and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The government will introduce new legislation within the next several weeks that would replace the OMB with a new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The new tribunal would be structured to give greater weight to the decisions made by local communities than is currently the case under the OMB. Specific reforms would include:

  • Eliminating “de novo” hearings from the majority of planning appeals
  • Giving local appeal bodies more authority
  • Requiring the tribunal to conduct mandatory case management for the majority of cases and providing the tribunal with modern case management powers
  • Creating statutory rules regarding the conduct of hearings, including setting strict presumptive timelines for oral hearings and limiting evidence in the majority of cases to written materials
  • Providing the tribunal with modern hearing powers to promote active adjudication
  • Providing alternative hearing formats and assignment of multi-member panels
  • Giving elected officials greater control over local planning
  • Providing ordinary Ontarians with more general information about land use planning and offering guidance to citizens about the tribunal appeal and hearing process
  • Providing legal and planning advice at different stages of the tribunal process, including representation in certain cases at case conferences and hearings
  • For complex land use planning appeals, the tribunal would only be able to overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans. This would depart from the current “standard of review” for land use planning appeals, where the Ontario Municipal Board is permitted to overturn a municipal decision whenever it finds that the municipality did not reach the “best” planning decision
  • In these cases, the tribunal would be required to return the matter to the municipality with written reasons when it overturns a decision, instead of replacing the municipality’s decision with its own. The municipality would be provided with 90 days to make a new decision on an application under the proposed new law
  • The tribunal would retain the authority to make a final decision on these matters only when, on a second appeal, the municipality’s subsequent decision still fails to follow provincial policies or municipal plans

The reforms would also make the following matters no longer appealable:

  • Provincial approvals of official plans and official plan updates, including approvals of conformity exercises to provincial plans
  • Minister’s Zoning Orders

The appeals process under the proposed system would proceed as follows:


For more:

Backgrounder: Ontario’s Proposed Changes to the Land Use Planning Appeal System 


AMCTO Election Express #3

We are back with our 3rd Election Express that will cover the issues of directly electing regional chairs and county wardens along with all things to do with communicating and reporting effectively before, during and after an election. Buckle up…this is a long one!

Direct Election of Regional Chairs and County Wardens 

The chairs of regional councils in Peel, York, Niagara and Simcoe (corrected from Oxford in original release), will be directly elected in the 2018 Municipal Election. This will hopefully assist in strengthening local government’s ability to serve the residents of their community.

Upper tier governments such as Dufferin and Wellington County have the option of moving towards direct election in 2018, but are not required.

So let’s see what might that mean for you as a Clerk?

Tips for holding direct election of Regional Chair and/or Regional Councillors 

The Region of Waterloo has directly elected its Regional Chair since 1997 and 8 Regional Councillors since 2000. The balance is made up from mayors of each of the seven area municipalities within the Region.

Where possible during the election process, it is important to work with the Clerk’s in your area municipalities. Collaboration is a key factor in running a successful municipal election despite the fact that the region and area municipalities pay their own costs for an election. It is common to see costs for items like joint ads being split among all the municipalities participating.

The regulations approved under the Municipal Elections Act state that “ranked ballot elections are not authorized for any office on the council of an upper-tier municipality unless they are authorized for all offices on the council of every lower-tier municipality within the upper-tier municipality”. So if all of the lower tiers have not approved the use of ranked ballots, the upper tier may not use this method.

Election Processes done by the Region:

  • Placing advertisements for nomination period (try to do with area municipalities);
  • Accepting of nomination papers by candidates for office of Regional Chair and directly elected Regional Councillor;
  • Provide campaign expense limits to candidates (require number of voters from area municipalities)
  • Prepare information package for registered candidates, including election guide from province, accessibility guide, maps, voters’ list (candidates to obtain from area municipalities), campaign expense estimate, sign by-law;
  • Prepare for question on ballot if approved by council;
  • Obtain voters’ list from area municipalities in order to certify candidates
  • Certify nomination papers, declare acclamations, where applicable;
  • Provide list of registered candidates to area municipalities for inclusion on the ballot – needs to be done within a prescribed timeline;
  • Establish compliance audit committee – consider a joint committee with area municipalities;
  • Receiving of financial statements following campaign period.

Election Processes done by the Area Municipality on behalf of the Region:

  • Deciding on voting method (i.e. electronic, internet, telephone, mail, etc.);
  • Setting up polling locations, securing contracts, setting hours, advance polls, etc.;
  • Hiring polling staff;
  • Printing of voters’ lists and voter identification cards;
  • Printing ballots;
  • School board elections (nomination papers, etc.);
  • Proxy voting.

Helpful Tips:

  • Try to work as much with area municipalities;
  • Examples include advertising and promotion of election, nomination period, notice of election, etc., compliance audit committee;
  • Determine how you will get results from area municipalities – be at their office on election night, monitor website, etc. – you require official results in order to declare Regional Chair elected (cumulative totals);
  • Decide well in advance what information you will post on your website, including nomination papers, financial statements, etc. – how are you going to display results on election night;
  • Use of social media during election;
  • Consider policy for use of regional resources during campaign, especially important for existing councillors running an election campaign.

Communicate Early & Often: 

Communicating is a vital component for the successful administration and implementation of the 2018 Municipal Election for candidates, electors and third-party advertisers. Changes in voting methods and educating everyone on the amended Municipal Elections Act are key factors which require communication. A first step is to ensure that you are meaningfully collaborating with your area clerks to develop key messaging on the election.

Voters, candidates and third-party advertisers will be getting information from every source – so as election officials, we need to provide the public with credible and accurate resources for reliance on all facets of election information, from where, when, and how to vote to eligibility requirements and third-party advertising rules.

Municipal clerks, as election officials, continue to be the ultimate authority on the election administration process to ensure that voters and candidates can successfully participate; moreover, election officials should be willing to use every tool available to deliver information to the public. Fortunately, modern communication tools make it easier and cheaper to reach large audiences with this election information.

Preparing for an election involves extensive planning. An efficient elections office often has detailed policies and procedures for all aspects of the process, but the best policies and procedures are helpful only if they are well publicized and understood.

An election official’s effort to educate and communicate with the public has a direct effect on the voters’ chances of having a successful election experience. Getting started is sometimes the hardest part.

  1. An election official first needs to define whom he or she serves.
  2. Who are the customers?
  3. What are the most common questions the customers ask?
  4. How do the customers get their information?

These questions and answers are the beginning of a communication strategy targeted at the election official’s specific community. An election official who prepares a communication strategy ahead of time will increase efficiency and optimize resources—including those that are needed to make sure the election runs smoothly after voting begins.

Information for Voters
Voters often ask the same, predictable questions throughout the election cycle. The top questions voters ask include “Am I registered to vote?” and “Where do I vote?”

The answers to these two questions should be easy for voters to locate on every election office’s website. Voters also need to know how to register to vote; how to find information about absentee, early voting, and provisional ballots; requirements for voter identification; and information about the voting equipment used in their jurisdiction.

Information for Candidates
Candidates also look to election officials for guidance during the election cycle. Their questions focus more on ballot eligibility, such as filing deadlines, filing information, and the qualifications to be a candidate. Election officials will need to make financial information available to the candidates as well. 

Information for the Public
The public may look to elections offices for answers to questions about the administration of elections in a broad sense aside from individual voter requests. For example, individuals interested in serving as poll workers will want to easily locate information about volunteering their time, so they will call the elections office or access the information on the elections office

Reporting to Council 

Questions on the Ballot – Section 8:

Section 8 of the Municipal Elections Act (MEA) provides Council with the authority to pass a by-law to place a question on the ballot that is within Council’s jurisdiction. The MEA permits municipalities to place a question on the ballot, which is essentially a referendum, during a regular election. Section 8 provides that Council of a municipality may pass a by-law authorizing a question on the ballot in respect to a proposed by-law; a question not otherwise authorized by law but within Council’s jurisdiction; a question, the wording of which is established by an Act or a regulation under an Act.

Section 8.2(1) states that the results of the question on the ballot are binding on the municipality if:

(a) at least 50 per cent of the eligible electors in the municipality vote on the question; and
(b) more than 50 percent of the votes on the question are in favour of those results.

Should your Council decide to include a question on the ballot, it would have to be authorized by a by-law no later than March 1, 2018 and May 1st for school boards or the Minister.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs may direct that a question appear on the ballot. To appear on a ballot, a question:

  • shall concern a matter within the jurisdiction of the municipality;
  • shall not concern a matter which has been prescribed by the Minister as a matter of provincial interest;
  • shall be clear, concise and neutral; and
  • shall be capable of being answered in the affirmative or the negative and the only permitted answers to the question are “yes” or “no.”

Language of Notices & Forms – Section 9:
The Act requires municipal election information to be made available in both in English and French (for those French language school board electors). The Act also authorizes a municipal council to pass a by-law to provide municipal election information in alternate languages, to help support electors whose first language is not English or French.

Voting Technology
New provincial legislation authorizes the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario to make voting technology available to municipalities. On October 19, 2016, the legislature introduced Bill 45, Election Statute Amendment Act, 2016 which permits the Chief Electoral Officer to use technology in provincial elections and to make it available to other electoral authorities in Canada.  

Policy Updates
The Use of Corporate and Communication Resources during an Election Year is now a mandatory requirement of the Act. Many of these policies have dates tied to the election calendar. For example, some policies establish Nomination Day as the date after which certain types of expenses cannot be incurred by Members of Council. As noted above, the amendments to MEA have changed many important election dates.

Proposed changes to the Act would require Clerks to prepare accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers that could impact electors and candidates with disabilities, and make the plan available to the public prior to Voting Day. The Clerk will be required to prepare an Elections Accessibility Plan and make it available to the public prior to the beginning of the voting period. The MEA also requires the Clerk to prepare a report within ninety (90) days following the election that identifies recommendations for the removal and prevention of barriers that affect electors and candidates with disabilities and make this report available to the public, rather than submitting it to Council. 

Expanded powers/discretion for Clerks
Under the revised MEA, the Act provides Clerks with expanded powers/discretion which do not require Council’s approval. These include the following:

  • Establishment of advance voting dates, locations, and hours;
  • Establishment of reduced voting hours at long term care facilities;
  • Management of the voters’ list (additions/deletions/modifications);
  • Determination of whether filing of financial statements electronically will be permitted and any conditions or limits associated with electronic filing;
  • Authority to adopt a policy by May 1st of an election year to define circumstances under which a recount would be conducted.

Additionally, the clerk is now required to review all financial statements and identify any contributions made to candidates (and third-party advertisers) in excess of the legislated limit. If there are any apparent contraventions, it is required that the clerk report these to the Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee for further investigation.

Compliance Audit Committee
Section 88.37 of the MEA requires each municipality to establish a compliance audit committee before October 1 of an election year. The term of office for the committee is concurrent with the term of Council and is responsible for considering applications from eligible electors that believe, on reasonable grounds, that a candidate has contravened the Act.

As a result of the amendments to the MEA, the committee is also responsible for receiving a report that the Clerk is required to prepare following an election. Pursuant to Section 88.34, the Clerk is required to examine all contributions made to all candidates as reported on their campaign financial statements. The Clerk is also required to determine if any person has made contributions to one or more candidates that exceed the maximum permitted contributions and to provide the committee with a report on those persons who may appear to have contravened the maximum contribution rules. Currently, the maximum contribution rules for municipal election campaigns is $750 per candidate, to a maximum of $5000 to two or more candidates for office on the same Council.  These amounts will change if MOMLA is enacted.

Click below for other resources: 

Election Express # 1 – New Legislation & The New Municipal Election Calendar 

Election Express # 2 – Keep Calm and Prepare 

AMCTO Municipal Elections Calendar

Ministry of Transportation Consulting on Display Screens and Hand-held Devices

The Ministry of Transportation is currently looking for feedback on regulations about the use of display screens and hand-held devices, such as two-way radios. Currently certain sectors are exempted from rules against using and holding hand-held devices while driving, such as public employees (eg. bus drivers), commercial drivers and amateur radio operators. However, these exemptions are set to expire on January 1, 2018.

The Ministry is currently exploring three options to address the expiry of these exemptions:

  1. Extend the exemption for hand-held use of two-way radios for an additional seven years.
  2. Make the exemption permanent.
  3. Allow the exemption to expire (making hand-held use of devices illegal and requiring all currently exempted drivers to use hands-free alternatives only).

Find our more about this proposal, or comment here.

New Paper on the Evolving Role of the CAO/City Manager

A new paper, released this week by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, explores how the relationship between elected officials and the public service has changed over time, and how the role of the CAO is important for ensuring effective council-staff relations. The paper, authored by Michael Fenn and David Seigel argues:

The often hidden, but very important, relationship between the municipal council and the public service is a key determinant of the success of any municipality… We believe that the CAO model performs better than either the council-committee model on which it was superimposed, or the U.S.-style “strong mayor”/political executive format that some favour. But the CAO model in Ontario is still relatively new and continues to evolve.

The paper also offers some suggestions for positive ways that the CAO model can continue to evolve in the future and highlights risks for the model going forward.

Read the full paper here.

Public Health and Safety Association Conducting PTSD Needs Assessment

The Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) is conducting a needs assessment as part of their process to develop new training and awareness around post-traumatic stress disorder. Please see below for a message from PSHSA:

The Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) is conducting a needs assessment for the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness and Anti-Stigma Training.

For all organizations interested in PTSD Prevention a great first step in your PTSD Prevention activities is ensuring that everyone in your organization has an understanding of what PTSD is and how to have a workplace culture that promotes early help seeking.

To help you build awareness in your organization, PSHSA will be developing PTSD and Anti-Stigma Awareness training that organizations can use to educate staff and supervisors.

This survey will only take about 10 minutes. Click here to answer this survey now.

Bill 68 Amended and Ordered for Third Reading

The Standing Committee on Social Policy completed its review of Bill 68 this week, and ordered it for third reading with a number of amendments. Notably the committee removed the provision in Bill 68 that would allow integrity commissioners to conduct investigations on their own initiative. This change was recommended by AMCTO in our submission on Bill 68 and strongly supported by our members:

IC Recommendation.jpg

Some of the other amendments made by the committee include:

  • Requiring municipalities to indemnify their integrity commissioners (ICs)
  • Not allowing councillors or members of local boards to participate electronically in meetings if they are closed to the public
  • Requiring that an integrity commissioner investigation not completed by election day be terminated, and not allowing new investigations to be launched during this period
  • Changing the provision that would allow for “any person” to be able to request an inquiry under the MCIA, to any “elector, as defined in section 1 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, or person demonstrably acting in the public good.”
  • Requiring that applications for integrity commissioner investigations of alleged breaches of the MCIA may only be made within six weeks of the applicant becoming aware of the alleged contravention
  • Imposing several limitations to the replacement of a member of upper-tier council, including
    • Not appointing more than one alternate member during the term of council (however, if the seat of the member who has been appointed as an alternate becomes vacant, the council can appoint a different member to serve as the alternate)
    • Not appointing an alternate member to act in place of an alternate member appointed under subsection 267
    • Not appointing an alternate head of council of the upper-tier municipality
  • Extending the new requirement for municipalities to adopt and maintain a policy for pregnancy and parental leaves to school boards and their members

For more:

Bill 68, as Amended by Committee 

Government Releases Changes to Municipal Legislation 

Annotated Versions of MA and MCIA, as Amended by Bill 68 (before committee review) 

AMCTO Releases Submission on Bill 68

London Council Votes to Use Ranked Ballots for 2018 Election

Council in the City of London voted on Monday to set aside first-past-the-post and use ranked ballots for its 2018 municipal election. The decision could make London one of the the first Canadian cities to use a ranked ballot to elects its council. According to London’s CAO, the change could add as much as $500,000 to the city’s $1.9 million budget for the 2018 election.

For more:

London Free Press: City council votes 9-5 to scrap first-past-the-post voting and make London a Canadian trailblazer

Applications Open for Natural Gas Grant Program

The government is now accepting applications for a natural gas infrastructure program. The Natural Gas Grant Program, operated by Infrastructure Ontario, is providing grants to help fund the building of new natural gas infrastructure projects in municipalities, First Nations, and unincorporated territories. The program is accepting applications under two separate streams:

  1. The Expansion Stream is for projects that help convert primarily residential connections into natural gas.
  2. The Economic Development Stream is for projects that convert mostly business connection to natural gas, specifically those that help agri-businesses, rural Ontario, First Nations communities or unincorporated areas.

Find out more about this program here. Applications will be accepted until July 31st, 2017.