Council’s resolve to be as transparent as possible in the way it conducts the public’s business has taken another important step forward with a recent decision to record all votes. In doing so, residents will have access at any time to the way their representatives voted on any given issue, simply by contacting the municipal clerk’s office (490-4210) with the date of the particular meeting.
Actually, recording votes isn’t a new move; councillors have always had the right to ask for this. What’s new is that, now it will be done automatically and form part of the record.
In my opinion, municipalities are the most open and accessible of Canada’s three levels of elected government. When it comes to our provincial and federal counterparts, decisions are sometimes made by cabinet, behind closed doors.
Let me share with you some of the numerous ways in which openness is alive and well with Halifax Regional Council:
· Dates and details of council agendas and staff reports are always posted on HRM’s web-site; meetings of council and its committees are open to the public and the minutes are posted on HRM’s web site; council meetings are televised by Eastlink and live-streamed by haligonia.ca.
· I have championed holding fewer in-camera meetings, except by motion of council. Only when critical issues are involved – for example, contract negotiations - should we consider going in-camera.
· The majority of recommendations by the auditor-general regarding the issue of concerts on the commons have been implemented. The rest are in progress.
· My expenses as mayor have always been public. Go to http://www.halifax.ca/, click on the icon for my office and see the appropriate links.
In addition, I have made full disclosure of all my campaign finances and their disbursements since 2008. I was not legally obliged to do so however, since I am not running for office in October’s election, contributors need to know what became of their funds. And finally, I believe that spending caps need to be imposed on all future mayoral and councillor elections – say, $100,000 and $25,000 respectively – so that these offices are open to everyone and not just the well-to-do or the corporate sector.
Democracy and the transparency it requires will always be a work-in-progress; I believe residents of the HRM can be proud of the headway that their elected representatives are making.
I welcome your feedback. Please contact me at email@example.com or phone 490-4010.