EDITORIAL: Public needs to participate

Nanaimo city council wants to be more transparent.

It wants to bring forward as much information as possible – without attracting litigation – so that citizens can be well-informed on the discussions council has in making decisions that affect the community. It also considered revealing how city councillors voted on issues that were discussed behind closed doors, though that motion was defeated.

Historically, according to one councillor, our elected officials have been perceived to be overly secretive, holding more in camera sessions than other B.C. communities. Another councillor, however, argued that in his time representing Nanaimo citizens, he has never had an in camera discussion he felt could have been discussed in the public realm.

Maybe it’s not council being secretive, perhaps it’s just an apathetic public that isn’t waiting in anticipation to receive the information.

Council can only be truly transparent if the public consistently shows interest.

Generally, it doesn’t until a decision directly affects somebody.

But how much more proactive can council become? It was right to vote down who voted for what at in camera meetings – the ultimate outcome is more important than how councillors voted.

What council should be exploring is how it can better identify to the public what has been discussed in private, and when and how that information is made public.

Typically, it appears on meeting agendas, perhaps as a development application, after the deal is done and the project is moving into its next stages.

There needs to be a mechanism that allows residents affected by an in camera decision to be allowed in on the ground floor, as soon as possible after that information can be released.

This, however, will only work if people are willing to be engaged in the process.

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