Council makes changes to when closed sessions take place

by Colin Smith

Prompted by concerns about transparency expressed by residents, Town Council is adjusting the placement of its closed session items during the meeting.

If there are items to be discussed in closed session, as set out in the Municipal Government Act and Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, they will be dealt with from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., during which Council will take its scheduled meal break.

The change was initiated by Mayor Simon Boersma, whose first proposal would have had council meetings continue to start at 4, but with closed session items dealt with first thing. The meeting would then be opened to the public, and the live streaming starting at 5:30 p.m.

Boersma put forward the proposal to deal with the concern that starting at 4 p.m. is a barrier to public attendance at and viewing of council meetings.

It would also result in decisions made during the closed sessions known earlier, although what information is released would not change, and would encourage timely and expedient consideration of closed session matters, with a set boundary for discussion.

“What I’ve heard a lot about is that residents really want to be here,” Boersma said. “With closed session at 4 o’clock, to start the rest of the meeting at 5:30 that would be much better for residents to see and be here.”

However, in discussion concerns arose that time might be wasted and the public inconvenienced if closed session items did not take up the entire time allotted. The possibility of changing the meeting times if there were no closed session items was rejected as impractical.

The idea of using the current identified meal break time for the closed session was brought up by Deputy Mayor  Stephen Dafoe.

Boersma then put forward a motion directing administration to make the necessary arrangements for the changes.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Dafoe noted that transparency was something that councillors heard about from residents during the campaign.

“I think this achieves two things,” he said. “I think it helps with the perception of transparency and also provides some efficiencies by cutting out that identified meal break but making it a working part of the meeting.

“Then when we come out the mayor can identify what items have been discussed and we can give whatever information we are legally permitted to give.”

Council voted unanimously in favour of the change for a trial run of six months.

CAO Dialogue and Council Dialogue, previously a standing item of all closed sessions was removed by Council motion late in the previous term.

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