Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BC Ombudsperson's Report on
Municipal Government Transparency

From BC Ombudsperson Kim Carter's introduction to Open Meetings: Best Practices Guide for Local Governments: 
Municipal law was changed to require that municipal governments hold meetings that are open to the public, in order to imbue municipal governments with a robust democratic legitimacy. The democratic legitimacy of municipal decisions does not spring solely from periodic elections, but also from a decision-making process that is transparent, accessible to the public, and mandated by law. — The Supreme Court of Canada in London (City) v. RSJ Holdings Inc.
One of the cornerstones of open and transparent government in British Columbia is the requirement for local governments to conduct meetings that are open and accessible to the public. Providing citizens with the opportunity to observe and engage their elected representatives fosters trust and confidence in decision-making processes and allows for meaningful participation and contribution from informed citizens. Open meetings act as venues for education and enable both elected officials and members of the public to make more fully informed decisions. In the course of investigating and evaluating complaints concerning the implementation of open meeting provisions in the Community Charter and receiving information from local governments, we became aware of some common challenges as well as effective ways of addressing them.

This guide grew out of an interest in sharing some of that information in order to help local governments comply with statutory requirements, to improve consistency in practice as well as to showcase the best practices for local governments to follow when fulfilling their open meeting requirements. At the heart of these best practices are the same values that the Office of the Ombudsperson strives to uphold: openness, transparency, and accountability. We promote and uphold these values because they are essential to ensuring that citizens are treated fairly and reasonably by public authorities.

PDF of the full report here.

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