Election sign bylaws and a review of Closed Session meetings: will there be a change in the way the public is treated?

By Pepper Parr

February 2nd, 2020



City staff and Councilors are getting prepared for the fall municipal election.

Two items on the council agenda today are reviewing the election sign by-law and a Staff Direction for the City \Manager to include in a March report a review of the city’s closed session meeting policies and procedures and report back on options and recommendations to ensure the development of updated best practices.

How does on prevent this kind of clutter? You don’t – they are a foundational part of the democratic process.

Let’s take the election signs issue.  Several members of Council would ban election signs completely; they already  have the name recognition they need.

For those looking for a way to gain some name recognition signs on lawns are critical.

It will be interesting to see how Council reacts to what is put on the table.

As for Closed sessions of council there is nothing but shame for this Council; they have held more closed sessions in this term that in any other in the past decade.

Admittedly, there are development issues, especially those related to Ontario Land Tribunal matters that have to be in closed.

The City Manager has advised of his intent to bring forward a report to the March 2002 CSSRA meeting regarding enhancing the alignment and effectiveness of the City of Burlington’s governance related business processes, practices and policies.

The impetus for the report is tied to the need to issue a new RFP for the upcoming renewal of the five-year contract for the City’s independent Integrity Commissioner.

There have been issues raised over the past 12 months in regard to the procedures and processes by which matters before Council are dealt with in Open versus Closed Session Meetings which have substantiated the timely need to review, update and properly define these best practices and procedures and to utilize the findings from this
assessment to support the development of an updated Closed Meeting Protocol.

When Council meetings resume normal operations will we see as much of this?

It will be interesting to learn just what the City Manager thinks a best practice is.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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4 comments to Election sign bylaws and a review of Closed Session meetings: will there be a change in the way the public is treated?

  • Bonnie

    Having lived in Toronto for many years and followed city politics there, before moving to Burlington, it is my understanding that the following statement applies to city councils.

    The municipality, local board or committee must state by resolution in open session that a closed meeting will be held and state the general nature of each matter to be considered at the closed meeting.

    This policy has not been followed by Burlington City Council and leaves many residents frustrated with the lack of transparency around these meetings.

    • Bruce Leigh

      Citing Amberly Gavel Ltd:-

      Closed Meetings

      Information for the Public

      Why Do Municipal Councils and Local Boards Have Meetings
      or Portions of Meetings That Are Closed to The Public?

      Municipal councils, local boards and their committees logically must meet behind closed doors on occasion to deal with some matters. For example, if a municipality is being sued or if council is considering purchasing a piece of land or if council must deal with a labour relations issue then it is appropriate that it be able to do so at a closed meeting. The purpose of such a closed meeting is to receive information or give directions.

      Local government in Ontario must be transparent and accountable. To this end, the Province has set the rules for a council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting. These rules are found in section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended. They must be strictly followed.

      The permitted reasons for going into a closed meeting are:

      -The security of property of the municipality or local board;
      -Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees;
      -A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land;
      -Labour relations or employee negotiations;
      -Litigation or potential litigation
      -Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege;
      -A matter authorized by another provincial statute;
      -If Council is the “Head” and the subject matter relates to a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; or
      The meeting is held for educating and training and no member discusses or deals with a matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council or local board.”

      Before council, a local board or a committee begins the closed meeting, it must pass a resolution at a public meeting indicating that a closed meeting is being held and what the general nature of the matter to be considered is. A closed meeting shall not be held by council a local board or committee before this resolution is passed.

      Any person has the right to request an investigation as to whether the municipality, local board or committee complied with the closed meeting rules established by the Province or the Procedure By-law of the municipality or local board.

  • Maggie Riley

    There is no mention in this piece as to the subject nature of the closed session meetings. Just an innuendo that something untoward was the reason for the secrecy.

    As the writer noted matters before the OLT requiring legal advice and strategy planning not to be known to the proponent in question would account for a number of the closed sessions. At times the list of proponents appealing against the City number 40+. That’s a lot of closed sessions needed right there. Then there are other matters that need privacy, like the fraud against the City or liability claims against the City. All these matters need to be discussed away from open view.

    The author of the piece says there have been issues raised over the past 12 months. It would have been helpful to have had a bit of meat on that bone. What issues, and by whom.

  • Bonnie

    Sadly, I believe the Closed Sessions will continue to exclude information from the residents that we as tax payers have right to know. There appears to be those on council, who would rather
    keep information that might bring a negative response, hidden from the public. When watching council meetings, it become very clear, there are those who support transparency and others who fight against it. Hopefully, these issues will become a part of the upcoming campaigning for the fall election and residents will decide what type of council they wish to see at City Hall.