Hamilton City Councillors are debating if they will open their planned meeting with provincial Minister of Transportation Steven DelDuca to the public.The meeting, scheduled for July 25, will decide Council’s direction on Light Rail Transit and is being held following a resolution to invite the Minister to speak to Council.
At present, Councillor Merulla wishes the meeting to be public. Mayor Bratina wishes it to be closed.
Municipal Act and Closed Meetings
Council, and its committees, are not allowed to go into closed session except for a limited number of exceptions under s. 239 of the Municipal Act.
Councillors cannot hold private meetings which materially advance the decision making of Council.
The Legislature left open the possibility that a gathering short of a quorum can still contravene the open meeting rules of the Municipal Act, to ensure Councils cannot undermine the spirit of the legislation to ensure open governance.
As Council invited the Minister with the intent of basing their decision on LRT upon the Minister’s statements, the July 25 meeting will materially advance the decision making of Council.
The LRT decision will effectively be made during this closed meeting.
Enforcing the Municipal Act’s Open Meeting Requirements
If Councillors choose to exclude the public from this meeting, any resident of Hamilton can file a complaint with Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
Marin’s past rulings, and his office’s guide to open meetings, are clear – the proposed LRT meeting should be open to the public.
Will Councillors be daring enough to challenge Andre Marin on open meetings? During an election year?
We’ll find out next Friday.