In Caucus

Another word for your vocabulary- in caucus. This is another name for in camera meetings which don’t sound very transparent; so now a euphemism is preferable. As we mentioned in our post before yesterday’s meeting, plans are in the works to broaden municipal authority so it can keep more things secret from its residents. Of course it is not described this way. It is justified in oh so reasonable terms. However, not everyone agrees. We laud the municipality of Annapolis County for being one of the few units to disagree with this proposal.

From the ToW documents pertaining to the meeting of Monday night: emph ours, formatting may differ.

Attached is correspondence received from the Municipality of the County of Annapolis regarding the Resolution that was passed at the 2008 UNSM Fall Conference. The purpose of the resolution is to request the Provincial Government to consider broadening municipal authority under the Municipal Government Act to meet in-camera for additional items to deal with training and on a personal nature regarding the conduct among and between Councillors.
A copy of the resolution that was passed is attached, along with the comments of then Minister of Service Nova Scotia & Municipal Relations Jamie Muir. This item was to be referred for discussion between SNSMR and the UNSM staff for further consideration. This item has not yet come before the Wolfville Town Council for discussion. Currently, the County of Annapolis is one of two municipalities that are opposed to broadening municipal authority in this manner. Staff request that Council consider this matter and provide direction as to how they wish to proceed with the new SNSMR Minister Hurlburt.
Resolution 9A
PASSED
BROADEN THE POWERS OF MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT TO HOLD

IN-CAMERA SESSIONS
Þ    UNSM Board of Directors
WHEREAS  the  Municipal  Government  Act  provides  municipalities  with  the  ability  to  hold  in-camera sessions on a  limited  list of  topics  including matters relating to labour  negotiations,  legal advice and land transactions; and WHEREAS  the  Ontario  Municipal  Act  allows  for  in-camera  sessions  for  the  purpose  of  educating  or  training members ; and WHEREAS  Nova  Scotia  municipalities  have  also  expressed  a  need  to  hold  confidential  meetings  on matters of a personal nature relating to conduct between and among councillors; and
WHEREAS the Nova Scotia Education Act provides for opportunities for closed sessions as determined by a majority of members of the school board present;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of Nova Scotia municipalities request that the Minister of
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations broaden the powers of the Municipal Government Act to enable  municipal  councils  to  hold  in-camera  sessions  for the  purposes  of  training  and  dealing  with matters of a personal nature relating to conduct between and among councillors.
Forwarded to:
Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
RESPONSE:
I believe that there is merit in providing municipal governments with additional authority to hold in-camera sessions regarding personal issues relating to conduct. I also recognize that there may be need to, on occasion, hold in-camera sessions for development purposes, especially regarding sessions related to conduct and similar matters.
At the same time, care must be taken that any changes put into place continue to recognize the importance of transparency in municipal government, something that citizens value and wish to see protected.
To this end, I have requested staff of my Department to meet with
the UNSM staff, to discuss in-camera sessions as a means to address issues of a personal conflict among councillors, while balancing the need to maintain transparency in local affairs.
The Honourable Jamie Muir
Minister

This is what Annapolis Co had to say in a letter to the President of the UNSM (excerpt taken from the ToW background documents):

annapolis-letter-cropWe absolutely agree. It is certainly heartening to see this position voiced, but discouraging to know that this unit is only one of two who are standing up for citizens. And what is that about “as determined by a majority of members”- doesn’t that mean whenever they want more or less?

Mr. Daniels, another Wolfville watchdog,  doesn’t think it is a good idea either.

At least as presented in the information, I would argue that such a proposal be rejected.  Here are some reasons:  as a matter of principle the town should encourage more openness and transparency and should expand its ability to have closed meetings only for compelling reasons;  at least on the material provided, there is no explanation for why the reasons for in-camera sessions should be expanded; it is unclear what constitutes “personal matters” and why training sessions should be in-camera is not explained.

In our view it is an attempt to bully (even nicely and unknowingly) opposing Council members in private. Beware.

We suggest an e-mail to the present (new) Minister responsible for Municipal Affairs [ Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations] , Mr. Hurlburt with your thoughts.  As ex warden of Yarmouth county he should know how this could be abused. snsmrmin@gov.ns.ca

A note to the President of the Union of NS Municipalities, Mr. Hines, mainunsm@eastlink.ca ,  might also be in order. Whose side are they on? It is interesting to read the “code of conduct”  “generally accepted” recently by the UNSM.

CONDUCT AT MEETINGS
Members shall respect the chair, colleagues, staff and members of the public present during Council meetings or other proceedings of the muhicipality. [sic] Meetings shall provide an environment for transparent and healthy debate on matters requiring decision-making.

Except when the meetings are private? Private meetings give some the opportunity to intimidate and separate Councillors from their support. Beware.

[BTW look at where the UNSM spring workshop is this year and their other conferences …

2009 UNSM SPRING WORKSHOP – MAY 14TH & 15TH, KELTIC LODGE, NS

2009 UNSM CONFERENCE – NOVEMBER 4TH – 7TH, WESTIN NOVA SCOTIAN HOTEL, HALIFAX, NS

NS Planning Directors Association Spring Conference – “Making Main Street” – MAY 13TH – 15TH – LORD NELSON HOTEL, HALIFAX

Nice eh? On our tab-]

Quote for today:

“Three groups spend other people’s money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.”

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3 responses to “In Caucus

  1. Now days it’s not just the above three groups spending other peoples money — now it’s everyone with a shovel-ready project, failed financial wizards, failed auto-makers, and all the other well-connected formerly-rich dead-beats who expect to be kept in style at the expense of the common (wo)man.

  2. Re: “need to hold confidential meetings on matters of a personal nature relating to conduct between and among councillors”.

    Heck, I don’t see that that is Council business. Having confidential Council meetings to deal with such stuff is bogus-business and dangerous. There are rules of order, are there not?

  3. We see it as a chance for the mayor to complain (in private) about being bruised by verbal criticism. If he or others can’t stand the heat they should stay out of the kitchen [ We suppose now that would be considered a sexist remark – like stick to your knitting!]