And Another Thing…

Confidential TOP SECRETThere’s a point I’ve been meaning to make regarding CBRM council’s in camera discussions of waterfront development, which Mayor Amanda McDougall defended to the CBC, telling reporter Tom Ayers:

Discussions on the potential land deal have been held in camera for months, which is allowed under the Municipal Government Act, and they will continue away from public scrutiny until a formal deal is reached, she said.

Don’t get me wrong, CBRM council not actively breaking the law—by say, meeting behind closed doors without telling anyone it’s doing so (which it did repeatedly back in 2015) or to discuss its own pay (as it did in 2018)—is a welcome improvement. But such a small improvement.

The Municipal Government Act says you can go behind closed doors to discuss some matters but it doesn’t say you have to; council is free to insist that the price of doing business with the municipality is that you must conduct that business in public. I can think of no good reason, for example, why citizens shouldn’t be privy to the other proposal for developing the waterfront that council considered before choosing that of Doucet Developments.

The same goes for the crumbs of information the municipality provides regarding in camera meetings—all you will find on the agenda is the date and time of those meetings and the MGA clause(s) that permit council to meet behind closed doors. This is the bare minimum required by law, and again, I’m pleased they are meeting this bare minimum because they didn’t always, but there is no reason why council couldn’t provide greater detail as to what is being discussed in camera.

I once joked that the CBRM’s motto should be Non in fronte, Cives (bad) Latin for “Not in Front of the Citizens” but the joke is starting to wear awfully thin.