Public’s business best done publicly
Don’t you wonder sometimes what’s happening behind closed doors at Calgary’s city hall? Hardly a new question, but we do. especially as those ever-so-secret, closed-to-the-public, in-camera sessions by our elected council members are growing in number and involve decisions around spending our money.
This week’s Manning Foundation for Democratic education report revealing Calgary councillors meet far more in camera than almost all other municipalities in Canada, is a damning one.
Where is the oft-promised transparency many of our elected officials campaigned for last civic election? Consider this: Of the 1,127 hours council met for in this four-year term, 267 hours were private.
That’s almost a quarter of the time, according to Peter McCaffrey, director of research for the foundation.
The 23.7% figure is up from 19% in council’s previous term and also includes special and strategic meetings of council.
So the trendlines aren’t exactly going in the right direction for civic government openness here in once entrepreneurial Calgary.
By way of comparison, the Foundation says Toronto’s city council met in private 18 times between 2014 and 2016. Hamilton 13 times. Ottawa once. eek. When the topic of openness was raised before the last civic election in 2013, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said this at a public event in Bridgeland:
“This council has been extremely transparent in the work that it does. We passed a new code of ethics requiring even more disclosure from members of city council.
“I look forward to implementing that if I’m back in this job.”
We fully understand there are sensitive issues which need to be dealt with in camera. Personnel. Or land deals. legal matters, etc.
But we really don’t know all they are discussing because the media and public are barred.
We do know there has to be a better way that you, the voter, is served in our democratic Calgary.
let’s hope the next group of council members you will elect this fall agree.