Political Science Publications
Recent decisions by the Ontario ombudsman suggest that informal meetings of small groups of municipal councillors in which municipal business is discussed are in violation of Ontario’s Municipal Act. In this province the Municipal Act provides that, except in certain specified circumstances, municipal council and committee meetings must be open to the public. If a municipality has not appointed its own “closed meeting investigator,” the provincial ombudsman is charged with investigating complaints from the public about municipal meetings that have allegedly been improperly closed. Much hinges on the definition of a meeting. If “meeting” is defined too formally, then a council wanting to do business in private can simply arrange its affairs before a formal meeting takes place. Such considerations have caused the ombudsman to state that, for a municipal meeting to take place in Ontario, “Members of council (or a committee) must come together for the purpose of exercising the power or authority of the council (or committee), or for the purpose of doing the groundwork necessary to exercise that power or authority.” It is this definition that suggests that informal meetings of groups of municipal councillors might well be illegal meetings. The object of this paper is to describe how this state of affairs came to be and what its implications are for Ontario municipal government.
This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Sancton, A. (2015), What is a meeting? Municipal councils and the Ontario ombudsman. Canadian Public Administration, 58: 426–443, which has been published in final form at dx.doi.org/10.1111/capa.12123. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.