Section 90 of the Community Charter provides that a city council can hold a meeting that’s closed to the public if it concerns “personal” information about an “identifiable” individual, concerns labour or other employee relations, or the “acquisition, disposition or expropriation” of land if council thinks such disclosure could harm the city’s interests.
The Charter also allows city councils to do business inside a closed meeting if the information they are considering is prohibited from disclosure under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or the matter involves “the consideration of information received and held in confidence” concerning negotiations between the city and higher levels of government.
This is quite cut-and-dried. It is therefore not to be used as a vehicle by council majorities, on matters not captured by the aforementioned provisions set out in the Community Charter, to sneak one by the electorate they purport to serve.
Moreover, it is certainly not to be used as an excuse for politicians to duck accountability, when asked why an item was dealt with in a closed meeting when the matter did not fall under any of these provisions.
City councillors revealed this week that council decided to disband the Surrey Housing and Homelessness Society’s board during a closed meeting last Thursday apparently because the mayor wanted to bring its governance “in-house.”
Mayor Doug McCallum would then not comment on the matter as it had been dealt with in a closed meeting.
Expedient for politicians, unfair for the public they were elected to serve.
This is not the stuff of transparency. Rather, it is opaque and anti-democratic.