In-camera meetings can too easily become an addiction

Robert Johnson believes too much council business is being conducted behind closed doors.

Editor:

In the “Guest View” of the Nanaimo Daily News, the writer brought to light the amount of “in-camera” or “closed-door” meetings that are being held by many city councils.

In my opinion, like that of the writer, too much business is being conducted behind closed doors.

As a past member of Ladysmith’s city council, I appreciate that many things have to be done behind closed doors, especially when dealing with land, legal and labour issues.

The writer, like my previous letter, refers to the fact in Victoria, 75 per cent of the council meetings had all or part of their council meetings conducted in secret. This compares to 35 per cent  in Saanich and  25 per cent in Nanaimo. Ladysmith had 100 per cent of regular council meetings for the first half of this year with part of the regular council meetings behind closed doors.

The author said “in-camera meetings lead to mistrust.” In my opinion, this is a valid statement.

He is also correct when he says, “Too many in-camera meetings raise the suspicion that someone is hiding something” and when he says, “Information is the oxygen that lets democracy breath. Without access to information, people cannot fully participate in the public process.”

Our elected officials have to determine what truly needs to be kept confidential for legal reasons and separate that from items that should be public.

Often, in my opinion, only a small portion of an item or topic needs to be in camera, but too often the whole topic will be conducted behind closed doors.

In-camera meetings should be used sparingly and only in the most narrow of definitions of purpose as defined in the Community Charter, and not for the matter of dealing with controversial or unpopular items.

Like the author said, in-camera meetings can too easily become an addiction.

Robert Johnson

Ladysmith