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Transparency can’t run on a timetable

cartoon_aug32016So, the answer is finally known as to whether two meetings held at regional headquarters – one in December and another the following month – were properly closed to the public or not.

Or rather, a select group of people knows the answer.

The report, completed last month by Amberley Gavel, which handled the investigation, looked at whether those meetings – one that lead to the incinerator getting the red light after it produced too much ash during its testing phase, and another that changed the contract with Covanta so that it could produce more ash and therefore go into commercial operation – should have been open to the public, and are now in the hands of Durham Region.

At this point, it is impossible to say whether the report simply reaffirms council’s initial decision to close the doors for those meetings dealing with the Durham York Energy Centre, or if there is a grenade just waiting for the pin to be pulled.

However, while a few people may know the details of the report, the public will remain in the dark for another month and a half, when regional council gears back up following its summer recess.

The reason behind the delay? The culprit is regional bylaw #80-2007, which dictates that closed meeting investigation reports cannot be made public until considered by council. According to the Municipal Act, reports on closed meetings are to be made available to the public, so having council consider the item beforehand is simply a formality.

And it is because of this formality that the public shall remain in the dark until Sept. 14, when regional councillors will once again take their seats in council chambers.

Transparency on a timetable is not true transparency. In 2016, it would seem that there are more options for regional council than waiting for everyone to get back into the same room before considered a matter, especially one that would answer whether they were doing their jobs correctly. If council review is so important, and not just the mere formality it appears to be, why couldn’t councillors be emailed copies of the report ahead of publication? Or, if seeing one another in person is so important, a special meeting be called?

Bylaw #80-2007 needs to be updated to reflect the times we live in, and allow for greater transparency at the region. After all, it does not do the public much good when the region can hold on to a report regarding its own conduct for a month and a half before giving others a peek.