The Weather Network
May. 21, 2022 | Saturday
Editorials and Opinions
Editorial: Keep public business public

A week ago we reported about how Niagara-on-the-Lake's emergency team was keeping the official records of its meetings secret from the public and restricting councillors' access to those documents.

Now, the minutes of most municipal government gatherings are far from being compelling reading material. In fact, few people, if any, would ever bother to read them. Except maybe some town councillors.

But that is not the point.

These documents are the nuts and bolts of municipal democracy and, like the records of regular council meetings, contain details of discussions, debates and decisions.

These are odd days in the life of NOTL's municipal government because a group of senior officials – many of whom have been working extremely long hours, up to seven days a week, for months now – are delegated the power to make decisions that normally might be made by our elected council.

This was an expeditious and necessary move, as it allowed the town's emergency control group to be agile and act quickly to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, on principle, we would argue it is at times like this that our government needs to be more transparent and more open than ever. Keeping those records secret does not accomplish that.

NOTLers deserve to know how decisions in response to the pandemic were made. Those documents are the record of the discussions and decisions.

All manner of reasons can be offered for why it is OK to keep these documents under wraps, and it appears that under provincial law, the emergency group actually is entitled to decide what people can know about its deliberations. The group that wants its documents kept private is allowed to determine if those documents should be private. Hmmmm.

But that doesn't make it right.

Since late March, this group has done its best to serve the interests of Niagara-on-the-Lake and protect us all from COVID-19. We all are thankful for that.

But, in doing so, it has been minding the public's business. And, with rare exceptions, all details of that business should be readily accessible to the public our government serves.