The temptation to go behind closed doors

Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) is no doubt necessary and maybe even as effective as it can be. But it still leaves the way pretty wide open for public bodies (E.g. municipal councils) to shut the door as often as they like.

Not that we’re saying that is happening inappropriately, locally or elsewhere. But here’s an example of how open to interpretation some of the wording is. Section 16 (1) allows councils to go in camera when it deems “disclosure would be harmful to the business of a third party.”

Okay, but who defines what ‘harmful’ might be? Council, that’s who.

More generally, the act authorizes closed-session discussions about the standard ‘land, legal or personnel’ issues. Using a broad interpretation, it’s hard to imagine any item on a council agenda that doesn’t have some bearing on one or more of those three things. So if a council wanted to, it could conduct a lot of its business without any minutes being taken or anyone listening in.

Again, we’re not saying it is happening around here. Much.

Share this post

Post Comment