Local government open meeting rules
Public accessibility to the decision-making process of elected officials is central to the principles of accountable government.
The open meetings provisions of the Community Charter apply to municipal councils (including the City of Vancouver), regional district boards, bodies of the Islands Trust and Metro Vancouver's greater boards.
All meetings of local government elected and appointed bodies (such as committees, commissions and other subsidiary bodies) must be open to the public as a general rule. This requirement is intended to be applied broadly, in keeping with the principle of openness, transparency and accountability.
Court decisions have been made about the types of gatherings considered to constitute a meeting. In general, gatherings where elected members could be seen to be making decisions, or moving towards making decisions, could constitute a meeting. All such gatherings must be held in accordance with the Community Charter's open meeting provisions.
The best practices guide for open meetings by the Office of the Ombudsperson also sets out definitions for local government meetings.
Staff briefings, to further elected officials understanding of an issue, that do not constitute a material part of the decision-making process, would not typically be considered a municipal council or regional district board meeting.
All meetings of a local government elected body must be open to the public unless authorized to be closed. This includes committees, commissions and other subsidiary bodies.
Under certain circumstances, a municipal council or regional district board may close a meeting or part of a meeting by passing a resolution that sets out the basis for closing the meeting.
Local governments may not adopt bylaws in a closed meeting. All council or board votes on the reading or adoption of a bylaw must be made in an open meeting, even if the issues that gave rise to the bylaw were discussed in a closed meeting.
The resolution required to close a meeting or part of a meeting must be passed in the open part of a meeting and the resolution must state:
- The fact that the meeting or part of the meeting is to be closed
- The basis under section 90 of the Community Charter on which the meeting or part is to be closed
When crafting the resolution, local governments will need to reference the specific wording in section 90, subsections 1 and 2 in order to explain why the meeting, or part of the meeting, is being closed.
The Community Charter requires that a municipal procedure bylaw provide for the taking of minutes of municipal council and committee meetings, including certification of those minutes.
The Local Government Act outlines the requirements for the taking of minutes of regional district board and committee meetings.
Municipal council and committee meeting minutes and regional district board and committee meeting minutes must be available to the public, except for those taken at a meeting or part of a meeting that is closed to the public.
The corporate officer has responsibility for ensuring that accurate minutes of municipal council and committee meeting and regional district board and committee meetings are prepared, certified as needed and maintained and kept safe.