28 Mar, 2017

IMFG Perspectives Paper: Accountability officers and integrity in Canadian municipal government

New paper from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance evaluates the ability of local accountability officers to improve the quality of Canadian municipal government.

Toronto, March 29, 2017 – Many local governments across Canada have established independent accountability officer positions, yet little research has been done on their impact and effectiveness. Can we expect the existence of these officers – auditors general, ombudsmen, integrity commissioners, lobbyist registrars, and closed meeting investigators – to improve the quality of Canadian municipal government?

In the newly released IMFG Perspectives Paper, Accountability Officers and Integrity in Canadian Municipal Government, Andrew Sancton argues that municipal accountability officers in Canada can and do address many problems and dilemmas, but they can also create problems of their own.

The paper outlines the functions of various local accountability officers who are required to make rulings about sensitive, sometimes controversial, issues relating to the ethical standards we expect from local elected officials. Sancton draws lessons from a number of recent high-profile integrity commissioner investigations in Toronto, Vaughan, London, and Sarnia.Ultimately, Sancton argues, the most important function of local accountability officers is to provide citizens with the information they need to make intelligent electoral choices. Says Sancton, “In general, these officers have very limited authority other than to make declarations and non-binding recommendations. Nevertheless, the capacity to influence public opinion is very high and should not be underestimated.” 

About the Author
Andrew Sancton is professor emeritus of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario and one of Canada’s foremost experts on municipal government. He is the author of Canadian Local Government: An Urban Perspective, 2nd edition (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2015).

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)
The Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance is a research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.For more information, please contact:

Selena Zhang | Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
selena.zhang@utoronto.ca | 416-978-2168