Today (30 May 2017) legislation was passed which will force York Regional Council to appoint an Integrity Commissioner - either its own or one drafted in from another municipality - and bring in a Code of Conduct for its own members.
The Council has resisted both measures saying it needs "flexibility".
The Modernizing Ontario's Municipal Legislation Act amends the Municipal Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The press briefing says the new legislation will:
"Enhance local government accountability and integrity across the Province by requiring municipalities to have a code of conduct for members of municipal councils and local boards."
"Ensure the public and municipal councillors have access to integrity commissioners with a broadened role related to conflicts of interest and municipal codes of conduct."
It is truly astonishing that York Regional Council has survived so long without a Code of Conduct for its members or an Integrity Commissioner.
In its clubby self-satisfied atmosphere the under-reported Regional Council floats above scrutiny and controversy. They get away with murder.
Even after the scandalous behaviour of Vaughan's Deputy Mayor, Michael Di Biase, came to light, the Region's members politely declined to discuss the matter.
Di Biase has now resigned - but on an entirely separate issue from the one which led to his loss of pay for 90 days from his home council in Vaughan. Even after his pay had been docked from Vaughan, York Region just kept paying him his "stipend" as before.
Commenting on the then draft legislation back in January this year, a report to the Region's Committee of the Whole explained:
"Greater accountability measures are proposed, including the mandatory appointment of an Integrity Commissioner and a requirement for a code of conduct for Council members.
Currently, the provisions in the Act designed to promote accountability and transparency are generally permissive rather than mandatory."
The Region’s submission to the Province recommended these provisions should
"remain largely permissive to enable flexibility according to individual needs and circumstances."
This allowed Council members to turn a blind eye to the shocking behaviour of Michael Di Biase rather than risk any unpleasantness by confronting the issue head on.
"Flexibility" gave them the option of doing nothing and looking the other way.
And that's exactly what they did.
Update on 14 June 2017: More on Di Biase who acted improperly in land deal.