The content of the City’s 2013 Budget aside, the Mayor and council still appear to be confused about what is confidential and what’s not.
A major component of the budget seems to be $150,000 worth of “recommendations” from the union. It would be interesting to know some details of those recommendations, which were discussed with the union at a closed meeting, but unfortunately the Mayor won’t be telling us.
Black Press reports that “… neither Mayor Jack Mussallem, citing labour relations confidentiality under the Community Charter, nor members of the union would comment on what those recommendations were.”
It’s true that under the Community Charter the council “may” exclude the public to talk about “labour relations and other employee relations” < bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws … #section90 >.
Of course, to close a meeting to the public on those grounds the council must first pass a resolution in a “public” meeting to close the meeting. That does not appear to have happened here, since there wasn’t the usual notice of a “special”, ie closed, meeting to precede the public meeting, where the first item would be to exclude the public.
Perhaps this was a “business meeting” with the union, ie one where the council just listens and talks and no decisions were made. If so, it was not a meeting that was or even needed to be officially closed under the Community Charter to discuss “labour relations”.
Either way, excluding the public from a meeting does not mean that everything discussed or decided at the meeting is confidential.
Some municipal information must be disclosed under the Community Charter and Financial Information Act, but transparency is mostly governed by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
Section 17(1)© allows the City to refuse to disclose certain information that “reasonably be expected to harm the financial or economic interests of a public body”. That can include information about “© plans that relate to the management of personnel of or the administration of a public body and that have not yet been implemented or made public;”
< bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws … #section17 >.
So it sounds to me that if the council has $150,000 worth of “recommendations” from the union there is a “plan” relating to the “management of personnel” and that plan appears to be an essential component of the council’s budget decision.
So long as the plan is not implemented, the council can keep it confidential, although why they would want to do that is not clear. What possible advantage is there to withholding from the public how they plan to save $150,000?
But once the plan is implemented the council can no longer rely on section 17(1)© to withhold the information from the public. There do not appear to be any other grounds under FIPPA for withholding the information.
This seems to be a Mayor whose default position is to avoid sharing information with the public, and the council seems to go along with that, notwithstanding that at election time they all say that they advocate transparency. Whatever the merits of the budget decision, on transparency the Mayor and council get a “Fail”.