Ombudsman says municipal councils should face penalties for meeting in secret
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin speaks at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 . (Aaron Vincent Elkaim / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 27, 2015 1:28PM EST
TORONTO - Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin says municipal politicians should face consequences when they ignore the law and meet in private to discuss public business.
Marin says some municipal councils illegally twist the rules that require almost all their meetings be open to the public because they know there is no punishment for closing the doors, even though they could be talking about issues of life and death.
He says the town council in Elliott Lake didn't keep records when it met in secret for 12 years, so no one can find out if there were debates about risks from the parking garage on the roof of the local shopping mall that collapsed in 2012, killing two women.
The council in Bruce County on Lake Huron held secret meetings with a government agency to discuss burying nuclear waste in the Kincardine area, something Marin says would clearly be of public interest.
Municipal councils can have the ombudsman investigate complaints about closed meetings or hire a "review officer" through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, but Marin says they do shoddy work and err on the side of secrecy.
The independent government watchdog says until there are actual consequences for municipal councils that meet behind closed doors, his options are limited to public shaming of those who won't play by the rules.