THUNDER BAY – CIVIC – There has been a lot of discussion about accountability and transparency in municipal government during this election campaign and in particular during the Mayor’s debate last week. The implied assumption is that many key decisions are being made behind closed doors and in secret. Such statements usually go unchallenged and therefore a perception is created that tends to validate such assumptions. When the City Clerk’s office provides the specific rules in the Municipal Act under which Council has the responsibility to deal with matters in-Camera (i.e. when individuals, contractual agreements, or legal matters are being discussed), Council is only providing the bare minimum of what I consider to be a proper answer to a legitimate concern.
In light of the Ontario Legislature’s proposed Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014, Thunder Bay’s new Council should adopt procedures (as soon as possible) that will show that it is ahead of the curve and not behind it when dealing with the “public’s right to know”. For example, when moving back into open Council from a closed session, the Chair of the committee of Council should be able to explain the context of the matter before Council and without divulging any confidential information, discuss any content that is relevant to the matter so that the public is able to fully understand how Council ended up reaching their decision.
I believe that the time has come for a more open process that will clearly tell our community that their elected officials are prepared to be leaders when dealing with communication and transparency and the “public’s right to know”.