On occasion, municipal councils, local boards and their committees must meet in closed session, behind closed doors, to deal with some matters. The purpose of a closed meeting is to receive information or give direction.
Local government in Ontario must be transparent and accountable. As such, the Province has set the rules for a council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting within the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended. Specifically, section 239 of the Municipal Act sets out the rules for closed session meetings, which must be strictly followed.
Under section 239, the following reasons for a going into a closed meeting are permitted:
- A matter addressing security of the property of the municipality or local board;
- Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;
- A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for municipal purposes;
- Labour relations or employee negotiations;
- Litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board (i.e., the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal);
- The receiving of advice that is subject to solicitor/client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
- A matter in respect of which a Council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under the authority of another Act;
- Information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;
- A trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
- A trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or
- A position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board.
Closed Meeting Investigator
As of January 1, 2008 any person or corporation is able to request that an investigation be undertaken respecting whether a municipality or local board, or a committee of either, has complied with closed meeting rules outlined in the Municipal Act, 2001 or the applicable procedural by-law.
The Township of Guelph/Eramosa uses the Ontario Ombudsman as the Municipal Closed Meeting Investigator.The Investigator will determine compliance with the Act or the applicable procedural by-law with respect to closed meetings and will report on the results of such investigations.
Complaints may be submitted on the established complaint form or via written request. All complaints must be submitted in a sealed envelope marked 'private and confidential' and contain the following information:
- Name of municipality
- Complainant's name, mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address (if applicable)
- Date of closed meeting under consideration
- Nature and background of the particular occurrence
- Any activities undertaken (if any) to resolve the concern
- Any other relevant information
- Original signature
A complaint should be submitted directly to the Ontario Ombudsman. Click here to be directed to their website.
The Ombudsman also has reference information for the public about the open meeting rules on their website.