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Transparency and Accountability on the Waterfront

Jul 4, 2014

Torontonians and tourists alike flock to the water's edge promenade in East Bayfront.

Honesty, openness, integrity and accountability are essential components of our approach to revitalizing Toronto's waterfront.

By Andrew Hilton

Since its inception, Waterfront Toronto has been committed to earning the trust and confidence of Torontonians and the broader public that we serve by being honest and open and by acting with integrity and accountability. We have done this in a variety of ways, including ensuring public consultation on every project we do, having open Board meetings, reporting proactively on our senior management and Board expenses, having  information disclosure policies that meet or exceed the City of Toronto’s own (according to a March 23, 2009 city staff report to Executive Committee), having been audited no fewer than 18 occasions by the three levels of government and external auditors and having our staff members’ salaries disclosed through the provincial Sunshine List  (the latter is not the case for similar city agencies such as Build Toronto and the Toronto Port Lands Corporation). In addition, our procurement policies fully comply with all relevant federal, provincial and municipal standards.

As Waterfront Toronto is funded by, and reports to, the federal, provincial and municipal governments, each level of government has also created a Waterfront Secretariat that provides fiscal and policy oversight over the corporation and ensures that the interests of each level of government are protected – including accountability, transparency and value for money.

We aspire to be as open and accountable as possible, and continue to refine and improve our policies based on the standards and best practices of the governments that fund us. We are always looking for ways to improve.

We work hard to operate in the manner to which we aspire – and to make sure that the public knows about it. We were reminded of this recently at the July 2 meeting of the City’s Executive Committee, where a motion was passed to undertake a strategic review related to the next phase of waterfront revitalization. The review was triggered by Waterfront Toronto’s submission of its Strategic Business Plan for 2014 to 2023. That business plan maps out the major projects that remain to be funded for the balance of Waterfront Toronto’s 20-year mandate – specifically, the flood protection of the Lower Don Lands; the Port Lands and surrounding communities through the re-naturalization of the Don River; and the East Bayfront LRT line which would connect the emerging communities along the eastern waterfront to Union Station.

The Executive Committee motion was amended to include three requests of Waterfront Toronto, which I will summarize:

  1. To adopt a freedom of information policy similar to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act
  2. To appoint an independent Open Meeting Investigator similar to the City’s; the Investigator should receive requests to investigate when anyone feels that Waterfront Toronto did not comply with our policy of open meetings (defined as meeting of the Board of Directors or Board Committees) and should make any reports of their investigations public.
  3. To adopt a policy on disclosure of wrongdoing and protection of staff similar to the Toronto Public Service by-law – this would commonly be referred to as whistleblower protection.

Although there was much discussion on these items, what was lost was that Waterfront Toronto already has these policies in place: 

  • Even though Waterfront Toronto is not subject to Freedom of Information legislation at the federal, provincial or municipal level – mostly for technical reasons – we instituted a Freedom of Information policy in 2009. The policy was updated in 2012 and substantively meets the requirements of all three – federal, provincial and municipal – Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Acts. We did this because our mandate absolutely depends on acting in a transparent and inclusive manner with the public and the governments that fund us.
  • Last year, Waterfront Toronto appointed The Honourable Coulter A. Osborne, former Associate Chief Justice for Ontario, as investigator to investigate any complaints over our open meeting practices. If a complaint is ever received, his role is to follow the investigative and reporting process set out in the City of Toronto Act.
  • And finally, Waterfront Toronto has had a whistleblower protection policy in place since 2009.

We are making some changes to our website to make sure that anyone can quickly and easily find these policies, and also to ensure that other Waterfront Toronto accountability and transparency policies and measures are centralized on our website.

Waterfront Toronto has earned the public’s trust over the decade of revitalization work we’ve undertaken. We will work to continually refine our transparency and accountability – key to the public’s trust – and we will communicate any changes we make.

As always, we want to hear from you on how we are doing; please email us at info@waterfrontoronto.ca

post contributor

  • Andrew Hilton

    Andrew Hilton was previously the director of communications and marketing at Waterfront Toronto.