Dear Mr. Parks,
On the front page of the June 29th Picton Gazette Mayor Ferguson was quoted as saying “I’m not in favour of doing anything in secret, as you know.” I have to question, therefore, why any future Council meeting concerning Picton Terminals would, potentially, be a closed meeting.
There are 14 exceptions to open Council meetings in Ontario and only two are mandatory – Requests under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and an ongoing investigation by the Ontario Ombudsman, or the municipality’s closed meeting investigator or local ombudsman.
The other 12, including litigation or potential litigation and advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose, are discretionary. Such discussions can be part of open meetings.
In the Ontario Ombudsman’s Open Meetings Guide for Municipalities 2023 it states in part:
“Must meetings be closed if they fall within those exceptions? Not always. In fact, 12 of the 14 exceptions are discretionary, meaning that whenever possible, municipalities should opt to discuss these subjects in public, in the interest of transparency. The legislation leaves them the flexibility to keep the doors open.”
Given the public interest in Picton Terminals as a possible container port, Council should opt for transparency at future meetings where this topic will be discussed and waive the choice of a closed meeting. Discussions and decisions in secrecy are not democracy.