Closed session provisions expanded
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 30, 2017
Under municipal procedure changes in the province’s Bill 68, local councils have an expanded list of reasons they can go into closed session.
Bill 68, the Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, received royal assent in the spring. It makes changes to a number of pieces of legislation affecting Ontario municipalities, including the Municipal Act and Conflict of Interest Act, among others.
A report from Haliburton County chief administrative officer Mike Rutter received by county councillors during a Nov. 22 meeting reads, “closed session meeting provisions have been expanded to better align with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”
The main reasons municipal councils have been permitted to hold in-camera conversations have included legal matters, matters related to the acquisition or dispossession of land, and personnel issues dealing with identifiable individuals.
Reasons council may enter closed session discussions have been expanded to include the following: “information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them; a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization; a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or, a position plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board.”
The legislation also more narrowly defines a council meeting to be a situation where, “a quorum of members is present,” and, “members discuss or otherwise deal with any matter in a way that materially advances the business of decision-making of the council, local board or committee.”
Bill 68 also permits councils to allow councillors to participate in meetings through electronic means, although those councillors do not count toward quorum for a meeting.
The idea of allowing themselves to Skype in for meetings was not so popular with county councillors
“I’m not really interested in being the guinea pig,” said Minden Hills Mayor and County Warden Brent Devolin.
“I don’t support this at all,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt. “When you sign up to be an elected official in your community, you sign up to attend and participate.”
Moffatt pondered if council meetings of the future would be talking heads on computer screens.
“I’m with you on that, Councillor Moffatt,” said Dysart et al Mayor Murray Fearrey. “I think there’ll be abuse of it. Are you going to expect to get paid if you Skype in?”