Since I was first elected to City Council in 2007, we have made great strides in transforming the City of Edmonton into a more open and transparent government. Today there are nearly 700 data sets available on the City’s Open Data portal and we have won national and international accolades for being one of the most open governments in North America. That’s a record I’m immensely proud of, not only because of the better decision-making tools we now have at our disposal, but because so much of the City’s information is now owned by Edmontonians.
While a culture of ‘open by default’ now permeates more of what we do, there’s more work to do to ensure City Hall is open and plain in its dealings with those lobbying members of Council, including the mayor. Because of concerns about backroom dealing, the bond of trust between Edmontonians and their local government are not as strong as they should be. That’s why I’ll be pushing for greater transparency and accountability from all the people you elected to serve.
For starters, this means continuing to ensure closed City Council meetings only happen when it’s absolutely necessary, and clearly explaining why Council needs to close it doors, for instance to get legal advice, or negotiate best value on a contract.
It also means having measures in place that can assure Edmontonians that decisions are being made in their best interest – and not because of any backroom lobbying. By instituting greater oversight and ensuring more transparent practices, we can work to lift the veil off some of council’s dealings and eliminate perception that anyone has the inside track at City Hall.
To do this, as Mayor I will:
- Create an online Lobbyist Registry – As part of our push to make the City open by default, I will create a registry for the Office of the Mayor that will require any person or organization (or their representative) to register if they are requesting a meeting regarding any financial interest in a City decision, and that any meetings be logged and reported publicly on a regular basis. This would not apply to constituents unless they have an financial interest in a property or purchasing decision. I will work with City Councillors to adopt this same transparent process.
- Implement a Code of Conduct for City Council – This would:
- Detail how elected officials are expected to handle conflicts of interest;
- Create clear ethical guidelines around lobbying, including regular reporting on lobbyist activity directed at members of council;
- Establish standards for maintaining respectful interactions with fellow councillors, city staff and the public; and,
- Establish accountability mechanisms for Mayor and Councillors to the Code.
- Instituting an Integrity Commissioner – This new role would offer independent advice to Council, investigate violations of the Code of Conduct, and promote transparency and citizen representation in City Hall.
Many of these measures simply bring us in line with other orders of government, and with many other municipalities in Canada. It’s important to recognize that municipalities are already the most open order of government – our meetings (by and large) take place in public, citizens have a chance to speak directly to decision-makers at Committee meetings and Public Hearings, our meetings are live-streamed on-line, and the minutes and recordings of our meetings are posted publicly soon after they finish. Through these changes, however, we ensure that our dealings outside of the City Council chamber are as transparent as our work within it.