Commissioner Brian Beamish appeared before the Standing Committee on Social Policy today to provide the IPC’s views on Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, 2017.
Bill 68 proposes to expand the open meeting exceptions of the Municipal Act and City of Toronto Act, which permit a municipality or local board to close all or part of a meeting to the public.
In his presentation to the Standing Committee, Commissioner Beamish expressed grave concern about the proposed amendments, stating that there is no evidence that the exceptions to the open meeting requirements in the acts need to be expanded. He also cautioned that the proposed amendments could negatively impact the public’s right of access to records under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) by broadening the circumstances in which councils and local boards may exclude the public from important decision-making, including by limiting access to information.
“Ontario’s freedom of information legislation supports open and transparent government by giving the public a right of access to information held by municipalities,” Commissioner Beamish added. “Any legislative initiative that would negatively impact on citizens’ right to know in the province will be given close scrutiny by my office.”
The IPC recommends that the proposed amendments related to the ability of a municipality or local board to close all or part of a meeting be struck from Bill 68 unless the ministry can provide compelling evidence that they are needed. If that evidence is forthcoming, then the IPC recommends a specific amendment to limit the impact of the proposed amendments on access rights under MFIPPA.
Read the full submission.