In this reader submission, the question about what’s going on in closed meetings, and why we can’t know about them, is raised again.
Letter vs Spirit of the Law, a letter by Kevin Bowman.
A recent (November 2018) investigation report of closed meetings triggered by a complaint made in late June 2018 cleared the City of any wrongdoing. Specifically, two bodies formed to advise City staff – the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and the Community Working Group (CWG) for the Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan – were found not to be in violation of the Municipal Act or the City’s Procedural Bylaw for holding closed meetings. The letter of the law may be satisfied but it seems the spirit and/or intent is not.
I suspect most members of the public would agree that anything and everything done in the name of the public should be…well, public (with obvious exceptions for legally protected information). This is the purpose and intent behind the “open meetings” provisions in the Municipal Act and the related provisions in the City’s Provisional Bylaw. This is also the purpose and intent behind the City of Guelph’s commitment to Open Government.
“Open government is about the relationship between you and your public servants. It’s about governing with people rather than at people. It’s about building trust and accountability between citizens, elected officials and municipal administration.” – City of Guelph Open Government web page
Why then do the Terms of Reference for the TAG state “It will also not entertain delegations from the public, nor will the meetings be open to the public.”?
Why were the meeting schedule (Feb 2017 through April 2018) and minutes for the TAG and the CAW not published on the City website until 4+ months after the fact and only after a complaint was filed in late June 2018?
Why was the membership of the TAG and the CAW treated as confidential by city staff when a former City Councillor asked for this information in June 2018?
Why was a local resident chastised by the mayor in June 2018 for delegating to council and expressing frustration that city staff were stonewalling his multiple requests that the CWG minutes be posted?
Why were 6 out of 11 scheduled 2018 meetings of the Environmental Advisory Committee cancelled?
During the election campaigns we heard a lot from candidates about the importance of openness, transparency and accountability leading to trust and integrity in our local government. Hopefully the new Council shows some leadership on this issue and goes beyond a narrow interpretation of the rules to enshrine the principles of openness and transparency in everything City Hall does.