by Jim Bertram
North Grenville Municipal Council held another of its afternoon Committee of the Whole meetings on May 21. The meeting, scheduled on the municipality website for 2:30 pm, actually got started at 3 pm. This was the second time I have encountered a difference between the apparently scheduled time listed on the official website and the actual start of the meeting. I am assured that this will not occur again, for obvious reasons of courtesy to the public.
During the meeting, one of the items discussed was the streaming of afternoon meetings. Evening meetings are already streamed and available to residents on the North Grenville Municipal website. Of course, the basic reason for streaming at any time is to give residents the opportunity to see what is being done at Council, how it is being done, who is working hardest for residents, and so on. This necessary act of supervision by citizens of those who serve them can only be done by being physically present at meetings, or by viewing those meetings in total via streaming or an allied technique.
In the final analysis, there cannot be daily democracy without daily citizenship. That’s a high bar, but the opportunity to achieve that high level of citizenship must be made available by those who hold power. This may, in some ways, be uncomfortable for those whom we have chosen to represent us. Members of Council must tolerate close scrutiny as they perform their functions and become accustomed to that reality as they work. If errors occur, they must be available for public assessment, with a view to the eventual taking of corrective action in the service of the people.
For some time now, I have expressed my concern on the matter of streaming to various members of Council. Council’s decision to proceed with this measure is welcome, since it marks an understanding by Council that, apart from legally defined Closed Meetings for specific designated purposes, Council meetings should not occur without full access afforded to citizens. One simply cannot argue that mid-afternoon meetings, without streaming, gives realistic access to Council discussions for residents. Indeed, such meetings are virtually equivalent to closed meetings, in that only a very few dedicated citizens (one or two in my experience) will have an opportunity to attend. And even that number may not always be present.
So, Council has undertaken to have all Committee of the Whole meetings streamed by mid-June. For a Council to make a claim for an unimpeachable level of service to the public, with real transparency and openness, complete availability of the conduct of Council meetings must be the norm.