VANCOUVER, B.C. – Green Party of Vancouver City Councillor Pete Fry will introduce a motion on November 29th, calling for procedure by-law changes to allow his colleagues at City Hall to practice better Transparency and Accountability in Conducting Council Business.
“I am concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability at City Hall,” said Fry. “Recent changes to our procedure bylaws to limit engagement with the public, lack of clarity around in-camera processes, and what appears to be an extraordinary amount of decisions made by the majority ABC caucus behind closed doors, are not serving the interest of local democracy.”
The City of Vancouver’s current practice is to release closed in-camera decisions and reports specifically and only "because they are no longer considered sensitive." These releases don’t provide for accountability, because while the decisions are released the votes are not.
Closed meetings take place as authorized under the Vancouver Charter, for time-limited matters of a sensitive nature. There are currently no legal rules around Councillors disclosing their own vote after closed meeting results have been released. This ambiguity has resulted in heavy handed attempts to limit Councillors’ personal accountability and transparency, for example, in the case of the recent Living Wage vote.
Fry’s motion proposes several changes to the Procedure By-laws governing how Vancouver City Council conducts closed in-camera meetings to improve transparency and accountability at City Hall. Specifically, Fry is asking for:
- Public justifications for moving to closed in-camera meetings that are as explicit as possible;
- Council decisions to take place in open meetings whenever possible;
- The public release of all in-camera reports, decisions, and voting records as soon as they are no longer deemed sensitive (both in open meetings and on the City’s website);
- Or a public rationale for not disclosing the above information.
“In-camera meetings are necessary to protect the public interest; however, they should not shield elected representatives from public scrutiny,” said Fry.
“The best practices for in-camera meetings are well-researched and well-known—unfortunately, the City of Vancouver is not measuring up to other Canadian cities like Toronto who routinely balance confidentiality with accountability in releasing their in-camera decisions and votes.”
Fry’s motion also asks for changes to the procedure bylaw that would reinstate councillors' ability to ask clarifying questions of speakers at public meetings. In May 2023, the ABC majority eliminated Councillor questions to speakers altogether, making it difficult for Councillors to make fully informed decisions and demonstrate accountability to the community.
“We are seeing an increasing number of unexpected, closed-door decisions at City Hall and a decreased amount of meaningful public consultation,” said Green City Councillor Adriane Carr. “I fear we are further eroding public trust in government and discouraging participation in our democratic processes.”
The Green Party of Vancouver has always believed that the foundation of good governance is accountability and transparency, key foundational pillars of the Green value of participatory democracy.
Motion: Transparency and Accountability in Conducting Council Business