Regional District of Nanaimo directors quashed an initiative seeking to open strategic planning sessions to the public.
Tyler Brown, RDN Nanaimo director, posed the motion at a Tuesday committee meeting, seeking to allow public access to planning sessions. A pair are slated for Jan 15 and 29. It would allow people to see “how and why” the regional district makes all of its decisions and for accountability, suggested Brown, who disagreed with the notion that closed meetings allow for more fulsome discussion.
“Although it may be common or past practice, or someone finds it more convenient or comfortable for strategic planning sessions to be closed to the public, I do not believe it is appropriate,” said Brown. “The community charter lists specifically the reasons a local government can consider matters in closed meetings. Comfort or convenience for elected officials is not found on that list.”
The proposal was met with resistance by a majority of RDN directors.
Phyllis Carlyle, RDN chief administrative officer, said there are differences between open workshops and open meetings. The latter requires a chairperson, an agenda and everything must be done by motion.
Don Bonner, Nanaimo director, said RDN residents should have a say in discussion.
“I believe that we were elected to set a strategic plan for our municipalities and the district and I think that we owe it to the public to do this in an open forum,” said Bonner.
Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo director, was opposed, stating that there is confidential information the public shouldn’t be privy to.
“When we bring up in camera items, which there will be some, what point will we go in camera? Do we do that daily … because there will be certain topics that must be in camera by charter,” said Armstrong.
Only Brown and Bonner voted in favour. Jim Turley, Nanaimo director, was not present.