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Canada: Watson Proposes Transit Commission, Other Shuffles to Cty Committees
Source: ottawacitizen.com
Source Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Focus: Health
Country: Canada
Created: Nov 24, 2010

OTTAWA - New council committees are to be considered in a governance review tabled at council Wednesday, said mayor-elect Jim Watson.

A governance review occurs every time a newly elected city council takes over, and Watson said recommendations include combining the audit, budget and finance committee with the corporate services and economic development committee to create a "new" finance and economic development committee. There used to be only one committee dealing with all those matters, until outgoing mayor Larry O'Brien sought to split them so that one group of councillors could focus more intently on the city budget. The corporate-services committee deals with internal city administration, buying and selling city land, labour relations and human resources.

Other recommendations would create a transit commission to be directly accountable for transit operations - rather than council's transit committee. And the planning and environment committee would be split into two committees - one focused on city planning and the other on the environment, which typically includes garbage collection and water services - Watson said in a press release.

The governance review is to be the new council's first order of business after it's sworn in on Dec. 1, Watson said. The first meeting after the swearing-in ceremony is to be held Dec. 8.

A nominating committee that's to recommend who should sit on each committee (after councillors indicate their preferences) is to meet on Dec. 14, and its decisions are to go to council at its second meeting, on Dec. 15, according to Watson.

Watson said the governance review also contains recommendations for "a revised budget process that will ensure increased scrutiny over the tax dollars we will be asked to spend on behalf of the public" as well as changes that would make public a number of reports currently dealt with in camera.

Other recommended changes include establishing an "accountability framework" that would have expenses placed each month on the city's website and have staff and an integrity commissioner work on a code of conduct and lobbyist registry.

"The next steps would be to see how the city should be enhancing citizen engagement with their city government," Watson said.

"We should be looking at how technology and social networking can enhance policy making, and at how we can best involve citizen volunteers in policy development."

The framework would also examine how the city's current governance model is working 10 years after amalgamation "and make suggestions about how best to enhance truly local decision-making while allowing council to focus on the important, city-wide challenges and opportunities we will face in the coming years," Watson wrote.

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