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Staff, leadership advocate for inquiry recommendations applied beyond Collingwood

CAO, clerk have been lobbying provincial, county staff to push for changes to governance and transparency beyond Collingwood town hall
Collingwood CAO Sonya Skinner. Contributed photo

Collingwood’s top staff and political leadership have been lobbying municipal and provincial governments in the hopes they’ll also implement some of the recommendations from the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry. 

The town’s CAO, Sonya Skinner, delivered an update to council during an afternoon meeting yesterday (March 1), explaining the latest efforts by herself, Clerk Sara Almas, Mayor Brian Saunderson, and Deputy Mayor Keith Hull. 

Advocacy efforts have reached staff and politicians at the County of Simcoe, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the County Clerks and Treasurers Association, the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario, the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association, and other provincial staff and ministers, including MPP Jim Wilson, and Ontario’s Attorney General. 

“With all of those meetings we did find a couple of themes,” said Skinner. “Everyone we met definitely had the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry on their radar … the more informed of them realized the issues were not Collingwood’s alone. Everyone felt there was a need to act, and to act more broadly.”

The CAO said she’s interested in putting together a working group with representatives from various organizations, municipalities, and levels of government to talk about “compelling reasons to act,” and the legislative and regulatory changes that could move forward. 

“We remain convinced as staff that actioning most of the 306 recommendations do require county level, provincial level, and national perspectives, potentially on a working group, or groups looking at the various white papers,” said Skinner. “Collingwood continues to have a role in driving engagement. I’m not sure all of these recommendations will get all of the attention they require without continuing support from council.” 

The Collingwood Judicial Inquiry report was released in November, and contains 306 recommendations for changes to things like municipal procurement policies, integrity commissioners, the role of council and staff, tracking and reporting lobbying, and the rules surrounding conflict of interest. 

In some cases, the recommendations are to make changes to provincial legislation. 

The recommendations are the result of the commission’s investigation into the 2012 share sale of 50 per cent of Collus to Powerstream, and the subsequent decisions made to spend the proceeds of the sale on Central Park Arena and Centennial Aquatic Centre. 

“The things that were the subject of the judicial inquiry that happened in this town and the people who acted inappropriately, according to the justice’s interpretation of it, they were called on it, and actions have been taken to move us to a new place,” said Skinner. 

Skinner said she’s been assured by OPP an investigation into some of the matters covered by the inquiry is ongoing. Council also met with its legal counsel from the inquiry, who were asked to provide some options for further legal action, should council wish to pursue it. 

On March 9, council will be hearing from former CAOs John Brown and Fareed Amin in a public session with a potential in camera session to follow. 

Staff also asked council to give its blessing to three white papers dealing with three areas of the recommendation, but those are on hold for now while council waited for its meeting with lawyers and the CAOs. The white papers would be drafted and posted for public feedback before a final version is made to inform policy changes. 

“I would say the commitments that Collingwood has had to the judicial inquiry process have already changed our culture,” said Skinner. “They pushed us to the forefront of accountable, transparent, and ethical behaviours in Collingwood.” 

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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