Ottawa city councillors approved a sweeping package of guidelines that will dictate how they can hand-out donations and accept gifts. The rules were proposed by the city's integrity commissioner, Robert Marleau.
The package of guidelines includes a code of conduct for councillors, and places a cap on the amount councillors can give to community groups from their own office budgets. The decision was made at a special meeting on Thursday.
Donations are now capped at 3.5 per cent of their annual allowance, about 8,400 dollars.
Councillors made one change to the package: they must now declare any gift worth more than 30 dollars, not just tickets to events.
Marleau had recommended a $200 threshold for gifts.
Some councillors want freedom to spend office money
Osgoode councillor Doug Thompson said he gave more than $27,000 to fair organizers, libraries and other community groups.
"My view is that we're elected to look after the affairs of the city and our wards, and the budgets that we're allocated," Thompson said.
"I think we should have freedom to spend as we see fit in our wards."
Mayor Jim Watson told councillors that's not how public money should be used.
"If you want to be generous dig into your own pocket. You want to go help the union mission, write a cheque on your own personal bank account. Every other citizen has to do it. They don't rely on an account from city hall," said Watson.
"Where we have cases where councillors are using their funds to pay peoples' water bills, waste water dispute, trips to Carnegie Hall, a trip to Norway. I don't think that's appropriate. Maybe I'm old fashioned but these kinds of things should not be coming out of an office budget to benefit one individual person," he said.