Transparency in Town Government

November 12, 2022

Virgil Hammock
Candidate Ward 3 Councillor
Tantramar Township

On the subject of transparency in town government particularly that of council. In the twenty odd years that I have been involved in public debate on this issue it has always followed the same pattern. At around election time there are public meetings, I would not want to call them debates, where the subject alway comes up. All of the candidates for mayor and council agree it is a good thing. The non-incumbents candidates accuse incumbents of a lack of transparency during the last council an opinion that is often shared by the audience. The incumbents defend themselves. In the end all agree to do better in the next council. After the election things go back to normal with a lack of transparency regardless of who was elected.

It needs to be stated that town councils are not provincial legislatures or federal parliaments that caucus and make decisions in private (in-camera). Town councils in New Brunswick are by law non-partisan and are very limited to what they can do in-camera. Municipal governments in New Brunswick are a weak, about to become even weaker, form of government under the control the provincial government. Debates and discussions of council are mandated to be done in public council meeting. Of course, there are issues like personnel, property and the like that should be in-camera. Some presentations might need to made private, but they should be rare and limited. What is not allowed, by law, is discussion and debate on issues that are on council’s regular public meeting agenda.

If I am elected as a Ward 3 Tantramar councillor I will make every attempt to limit in-camera meetings as I did in the past. If I find myself in an in-camera meeting that I think has gone off track I will leave the meeting and make that exit public at the next public council meeting. Let me repeat. I will attempt to limit in-camera meetings. One councillor cannot do such things on their own. It takes a majority of council to make things happen.

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