Closed Meeting FAQ

Closed Meetings - Frequently Asked Questions

 

Why do we need closed meetings?

At times, City Council needs to discuss topics that are sensitive in nature or involve information that would prove harmful if publicly disclosed. For example, the City’s position would be compromised if it were to inform the other side of its budget and strategy during a negotiation. As another example, the City risks breaching privacy legislation if it were to disclose personal information when discussing an employee relations matter. Addressing these topics in the absence of the public avoids potential harms and allows City Council to have the frank discussions necessary to make sound decisions.  

 

Who attends closed meetings? 

Generally, City Council, the Chief Administrative Officer, and the Director of Corporate Administration attend closed meetings. However, City Council can invite others to a closed meeting when necessary, including members of the Senior Leadership Team and the City’s Legal Counsel.

 

What types of topics are discussed at closed meetings?

Section 90 of the Community Charter allows City Council to close all or part of a meeting to the public where the subject matter relates to any of the following:

  • Personal information about individuals appointed to or being considered for appointment as an officer, employee, or agent of the local government
  • Personal information about individuals being considered for an award or who have offered a gift to the local government on condition of anonymity
  • Labour/employee relations
  • Security of local government property 
  • Acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements if local government interests could be harmed by disclosure
  • Law enforcement, if disclosure could harm an investigation or enforcement of an enactment
  • Litigation or potential litigation impacting the local government
  • A hearing or potential hearing by an outside administrative tribunal affecting the local government (such as the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner)
  • The receipt of legal advice
  • Information that is prohibited or information that if it were presented in a document would be prohibited from disclosure under section 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (business interests of a third party)
  • Service negotiations and related discussions that are at their preliminary stages and that could harm the interests of the local government if held in public
  • A matter related to the local government that is being investigated by the Office of the Ombudsperson
  • Objectives, measures and progress report discussions with local government officers and employees for the purposes of preparing annual reports
  • A matter that, under a separate enactment, may be discussed in a closed meeting
  • Deciding whether or not the meeting should be closed
  • Deciding whether or not a local government wishes to use the authority under section 91 of the Community Charter to exclude staff or allow them to attend a closed meeting, or in specified circumstances to allow other persons to attend a closed meeting

City Council may not adopt bylaws in a closed meeting. All City Council votes on the reading or adoption of a bylaw must be made in an open meeting, even if the issues that gave rise to the bylaw were discussed in a closed meeting.

 

Why can’t the public know what City Council is discussing in closed meetings?

Ultimately, City Council has discretion to determine when it is necessary to discuss subject matter permitted by Section 90 of the Community Charter in a closed meeting. Addressing these topics in the absence of the public is intended to avoid potential harms. 

 

Does City Council make the types of topics they are discussing in a closed meeting public?

A Council resolution to close a meeting or part of a meeting must be passed in the open part of a meeting, and the resolution must state:

  • The fact that the meeting or part of the meeting is to be closed; and
  • The bases under section 90 of the Community Charter for which the meeting or part of the meeting is to be closed.

Notices and Agendas related to the closing of a City Council meeting are available in the Agenda Centre on the City website.

 

How can I obtain information about specific subject matter discussed in closed meetings? 

City Council periodically reviews past closed meeting records for potential release. If Council is satisfied that it is no longer necessary to keep certain information confidential, they may pass a resolution to make the information public. Information that has been released from closed meetings is available on the City website.

 

How often is information from closed meetings reviewed and released?

There is no set schedule or legislated requirement for City Council to review closed meeting records for potential release. City Council conducts these reviews when time permits in the interests of transparency. 

Anyone interested in requesting a review of a particular closed meeting may do so by submitting a freedom of information request. Information about submitting a freedom of information request is available on the City website.

 

Can Council discuss closed items in open meetings? What’s the risk to the City and taxpayers?

Council members or former Council members are required, unless specifically authorized by Council, to keep in confidence:

  • Any record held in confidence by the municipality until the municipality authorizes its release; and
  • Information considered in a lawfully closed council meeting or council committee meeting, until council discusses the information at an open meeting or releases the information.

Confidentiality must be maintained until Council makes the information public.  Closed meeting information may only be released to the public through a resolution of Council 

If the City suffers loss or damage because a Council member or former Council member contravenes the requirement to respect confidentiality, and the contravention was not inadvertent, the City may seek damages through the courts.

Please see Section 117 of the Community Charter for additional information